The ’92 Dream Team is the standard against every other U.S. basketball team is measured. Them being the best the USA had to offer is pretty much a unanimity at this point. But not according to Shaquille O’Neal – he thinks otherwise.
It’s been 28 years since the Dream Team captured the gold medal in Barcelona Olympics, after beating Croatia 117-85 in the Gold Medal Game. Their 32-point finals victory was The Dream Team’s closest game of the Olympics, as they finished the tournament unbeaten with an average margin of victory of 43.8. Here are some more of the Dream Team’s remarkable stats that show just how impressive their run was, courtesy of NBA.com:
- Chuck Daly used 0 timeouts during the tournament
- The Dream Team shot 57.8% from the field in the ’92 Olympics
- They held their opponents 36.5% shooting from the floor
- They averaged 117.3 points per game, only allowing 73.5 points per game
- Their largest victory was against Angola (116-48)
- Besides Christian Laettner, every player on the 1992 Dream Team roster was inducted individually into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
- The 1960 and 1992 U.S. Olympic Basketball teams are the only Olympic teams ever to be inducted into the Basketball HOF
You see why they got the epithet of the greatest team ever assembled. Because that’s exactly what they were – the greatest collection of basketball talent the world has ever seen. From their cultural impact, to how perfectly they’ve integrated their stardom and personalities, everything about the ’92 Dream Team screams the best ever. But that’s not how Shaq sees it.
Who Diesel is referring to is an enigma at this point. It’s just clear that the ’92 Dream Team isn’t on top of his list of team USA basketball showings. Now, the best case can be made for the ‘08 Redeem Team. In most people’s eyes, it’s the closest thing to a modern-day Dream Team equivalent. But I’m going to go out of my way and say that that’s not the team Shaq has in mind. My guess is Shaq is referring to the team that he’s been a part of – the ’96 Atlanta Olympics team, or the Dream Team III.
They were the ones to follow up the greatest Olympic run from ’92 and let me tell you – they did an excellent job of doing so. The ’96 USA team finished the tournament unbeaten after their 95-69 victory against Serbia and Montenegro. They also did it in dominating fashion, blowing out opponents by an average margin of almost 32 points, capturing a second straight Gold Medal for the U.S.
In terms of talent, no, it wasn’t the best the NBA had to offer, simply because Michael Jordan wasn’t there. Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen and David Robinson – who all played in ’92, were the core of the ’96 team. They were joined by the likes of Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Gary Payton, Mitch Richmond, and Shaq. A great collection of talent to say the least, and the great Olympic run of their own. But does it top the original Dream Team? I don’t think so.
Just look at the names that were there in ’92 and weren’t there in Atlanta. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing – those are all guys missing from the ’96 roster. All due respect to guys like Penny, Shaq, Hill, and Payton, but I’d take the trio of Magic-Jordan-Bird over them any day. Just as I would take the ’92 Dream Team over any other national basketball team.
So Shaq, if the ’96 team is what you had in mind, you’re wrong. If it’s by any chance the ’08 Redeem Team, you’re also wrong. If it’s any team other than the original Dream Team, you’re wrong because that is without the doubt the greatest collection of basketball players ever.