Summer, 1992. Barcelona was all set. Ready to welcome thousands of
athletes and the world’s media. Ready for the biggest event
it had ever hosted. Ready for three weeks that would ultimately change
the city for ever. Yep, Barcelona was ready for
its very first Olympic Games. But was it ready for the
Dream Team? The Dream Team – the finest collection of
basketball players ever assembled. Superstars and superheroes,
playing together on one team for one reason
and one reason only – payback. You see, despite the USA’s dominance of Olympic
basketball, the Olympic Games in Seoul,
1988 hadn’t exactly gone according to plan. Team America was used
to winning at the Olympics, particularly in basketball. Especially in basketball. Winning an Olympic bronze medal
would represent a landmark achievement
for most athletes. Not for the USA basketball
team. It was time
to call in the cavalry. How are the cavalry going to
help? If anything, they should
call more basketball players. When Team USA decided to get
the NBA professionals involved, it was Magic Johnson… I couldn’t
pass up that opportunity. It was the
greatest moment of my life. ..who sensationally came out
of retirement to answer the call, and Boston Celtics’ legend
Larry Bird got on board first. Other big names
were quick to follow. Scottie Pippen, one of the
toughest defenders in the game. John “The Pastey Gangster”
Stockton – widely regarded as one of the best point guards
of all time. The 14-time NBA all-star,
Karl “Mailman” Malone. New York Knicks’ legend
Patrick “The Warrior” Ewing, who was coming off one of the
best seasons of his career. David “The Admiral” Robinson,
who had played as an amateur in the 1988 Olympics. And the prolific Charles “The Round Mound
of Rebound” Barkley, an 11-time NBA All-Star. But it was one player, the most
successful and gifted of all, who was one of the last
to sign on – Michael “Air” Jordan, at the summit of an
extraordinary career. In 1992, he was working towards
his hat-trick of championships. I never had the opportunity
to play with Larry Bird, never had the opportunity to
play with Magic Johnson, Karl Malone,
Charles Barkley. And while cynics would argue
that a Mongolian fruit bat would have been able to manage
their interstellar collection of talent, Chuck Daly,
who was appointed coach, was no slouch either,
taking the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back NBA titles
a few years prior to Barcelona. The question was not if they were going to win the
Olympic gold, it was more – by how many
points would they crush
the competition on their inevitable swaggering
stomp to victory? It was like
travelling with 12 rock stars. They stayed in a luxury
Barcelona hotel, instead of with the rest of the athletes
in the Olympic Village… to work on their moves. A-list off the court, A-list on the court. First up was Angola. Team USA blew them away,
winning by 68 points. It wasn’t about them
being close. We didn’t want any close games. We wanted to go out and just
put it to them, to really show them that we were the world’s best. Angola don’t stand a chance! He is on fire! Team USA steam-rolled their way
to the gold medal game, beating every team
by over 40 points en route. Spain… Puerto Rico… Lithuania… They scored 100 points
in every game – the first team
in Olympic history to do so. Coach Daly enjoyed
the view from the touchline. He didn’t bother to call
a single time out throughout the competition –
another first. Rival teams had their moments. They were trying,
they really were. But some players were more
concerned about getting their
photos taken with their basketball heroes. The gold medal match
threatened an upset. No, seriously, it really did. Towards the end
of the first quarter, Croatia held a respectable
lead. And then the Dream Team
found its groove. Gotta make it interesting,
right? Jordan piled in with 22 points, his highest score of the
tournament. Seven American players
scoring ten points or more. They won all eight games,
with an average winning margin of 43.8 points. The sporting success was
followed by the commercial success. The 1992 Dream Team
triggered basketball’s switch from American enterprise
to global marketing phenomenon. Across the world,
TV rights exploded. Sneaker sales soared. And international
participation leapt. The presence of these
professional superstars on the Olympic stage
would be a game-changer, bringing other sports
into the Olympic family. The Olympics Games would
never be the same again. And nor would basketball. That’s the highlight of my
career. It always will be.

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Dennis Veasley

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