The original 1992 Dream Team featuring 11 HOF’ers and one college superstar in their prime had just been put together to bring the gold back to the US.
After bitter losses pointed out that the world had caught up with the college amateurs, the NBA decided to showcase the best of their professionals at the Olympics for the very first time and show the world who was the boss.
Jordan and Pippen were fresh off their championship; Barkley, Stockton, Bird, Magic, Karl Malone, Ewing, Drexler, Mullins were among those who joined them; most of the players were already in good shape.
US basketball arranged for a HOF coaching team (Chuck Daly assisted by Lenny Wilkens, Mike K, PJ Carlesimo) and a select group of college players to scrimmage against.
The college team included Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Chris Webber, Allan Houston, Bobby Hurley, Jamal Mashburn, Rodney Rodgers, and Eric Montross. In retrospect, the talent was there, but at the time, these were relatively unheralded players (many of whom hadn’t even declared for the draft) going up against the Lords of the NBA.
But for the NBA’s announcement to send their top professionals, some of the select team would have expected to go to the Olympics themselves and fight for a Gold for their country. Instead, they faced off against their highly heralded replacements; fodder to get them ready.
The first practice game found the NBA vets taking it easy; they had never played together before and were stretching their legs and playing sloppy with little defense; they had underestimated their opponent. The college team wasn’t backing down.
Some may dispute how it happened, but none the result – the college team won 62-54. Allan Houston poured in 3s; Webber and Rogers dunked on Barkley, Hurley sliced through the defense as the college team talked trash.
Coach Daly was pretty blase with the result, saying, “We’re all right.”. By many accounts, he had stacked the odds to get the Dream Team’s attention and teach them that they could be beaten. He sat Jordan for long stretches and played sub-optimal substitutions. If this was his scheme, Daly sure didn’t bother to tell anyone and ordered the scoreboard erased before reporters were allowed in.
The news electrified the nation and gave the dream team the wake-up call Coach Daly desired. The next day the dream team destroyed the select team. They would never look like losing again until they stood on the Olympic podium with the anthem playing.
The college team would become the first of many who would group around their heroes for autographs and souvenirs.
MJ paid them tribute even as he demolished them in court.
If they were in the Olympics,” Jordan said, “they’d win the silver medal.