The 1992 ‘Dream Team‘ is still, to this day, considered the most exceptional basketball team ever gathered. Assembled with numerous HOF players, the Dream Team was an absolute sensation at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. It was expected for them to win the tournament after several unsuccessful years the Team USA had at the various world and Olympic championships. Their average margin of victory was an excellent 43.8 points throughout the tournament, and often, you could see other teams surrender before the game even started.
Something relatively unknown is the fact the team needed some time to adjust to playing together. Even though you had great individuals, all of these players were fierce competitors and leaders of their respective teams, so they all had to put their egos aside to make everything work. During their preparation for the Olympics, the Dream Team played against a college team full of young and talented players who became stars in the NBA in their own right. That team featured Grant Hill, Chris Webber, Alan Houston, Bobby Hurley, Jamal Mashburn, Rodney Rogers, and Penny Hardaway.
Surprisingly enough, that team came in and beat the Dream Team, who were not prepared for that kind of intensity from the college kids. According to some sources, the score was 62-54, even though head coach Chuck Daly ordered it to be removed. In an interview on ‘All The Smoke’ podcast, Hardaway said there was a lot of excitement in the air that day. The ability to play against the best players in the world who are also your idols was also a driving force for the young college squad.
“First of all, you get star struck the first thing when you walk into the room. We check into the room, and you see Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, all these guys. You say I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of these cats, so when we get onto the court Magic, Stockton yall going to have problems, because I don’t care, I will show you how to ball. That was my mentality, I have to show you to get respect from these guys. We all went out with that mentality that if we are going to ball out.Penny Hardaway, via All The Smoke
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After the first game in which the college players surprised the Dream Team, changes were made, and they approached the second game with a very different attitude. For Penny, the main difference was the level of physicality that they introduced to the game, something college players didn’t experience before. It was a valuable lesson for them since it gave them a taste of what to expect when entering the NBA in a few years.
“The first scrimmage we smacked them because they didn’t take us seriously. We were having so much fun that the next day when we came back after beating that ass, these boys were so much more physical because the first game they weren’t so physical. They beat our ass, and it was a lesson learned because we caught them off guard.”Penny Hardaway, via All The Smoke
The main difference is that the Dream Team won the second game because of their experience, ability to adjust quickly, and competitive nature. They were professionals that played in multiple important games throughout their careers, which is a big part of their greatness. In addition, all Dream Team players were strictly dedicated to their craft and did everything they could best at their positions. Hardaway picked up on that and implemented as much as possible to his game when joining the Orlando Magic in 1993.
“The whole experience spending time with that team was that you could tell that they are professionals. They took their crafts so seriously, and that resonated with me. If you want to make it to this level, you have to go about your business, and it was a great experience for me and the rest of the fellows.”Penny Hardaway, via All The Smoke