In Their Dreams
By Chad T. Jones
Public Affairs Officer
When they first aired I couldn't help but chuckle because they seemed so cheesy. Then, a few years later, the segments were just depressing, so I turned the TV off as soon as they started.
But now that I've got kids, I'm compelled to watch. And I sob, literally. I went through 10 tissues watching Wednesday's segment featuring a little boy with sickle cell who got to spend a day with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Anyway, I'd like to pivot from my softness so I can put a laser focus on yours. I haven't received one single submission for a guest Jibber. Kind of pathetic if you ask me, but you have a few more weeks to save your reputation and send in a column that could be published either Aug. 23, Aug. 30 or Sept. 6 -- that is, if it is good enough.
Speaking of good enough, bowling center manager Mike Sinek stopped by the PAO on Tuesday, bearing lunch menus for the journalists working the court proceeding here. And while the reporters where deciding on tuna salad or a cheeseburger, Mike asked me to decide something that had nothing to do with food or bowling: Dream Team or Team USA.
With the Olympics eight days away, this has become a popular topic around the water cooler. Even our president got involved with the debate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvQms_pRbsw
Now I'm not one to disagree with the commander-in-chief, but he, along with most people I've spoken with about this, seem confident that the Dream Team would win. But being the consummate contrarian, it's only natural that I'd see things differently.
I will explain why I think Team USA would beat the Dream Team. But before I do, let me be clear that Team USA is not, nor ever will be, the Dream Team, which is clearly the most influential group of athletes ever assembled. The cultural significance that the Dream Team had, as well as its influence on the game of basketball, will never be matched.
However, its skills on the court can be.
As I've said before, the most overlooked aspect in any present-versus-past sports debate is athleticism. In his prime, Michael Jordan was a supreme athlete. Lebron James, in his prime, is better. And Kobe Bryant is just as good, even though he is slightly past his prime. That's not a knock on "His Airness." It is just a fact. Science is better, diets are better, workouts are better, kids start working out earlier, which combine to make athletes better.
Let's look at the point guard position. Magic Johnson is my favorite player of all time, but nobody can tell me that post-HIV, post retirement, 32-year-old Magic and John Stockton would be able to do anything with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook.
And if you think that is a mismatch, what about Bron Bron versus 30-something, broke back Larry Bird? As much as I disliked Scotty Pippen as a player, he was clearly the best pure athlete on the Dream Team outside of Jordan. But if you looked at it honestly, he probably wasn't as good of an athlete as Andre Iguodala.
Obviously, athleticism is not the only factor. On the court, as much as everybody wants to complain that the current NBA isn't as skilled as the former NBA, there is no doubt that Team USA is a better shooting team than the Dream Team.
Chris Mullin and Larry Bird aside, who else on the Dream Team had a consistent jump shot?
And before you start asking about Michael, think about this: In the 91-92 NBA season, Jordan shot 27 percent from the 3-point line. This season, Lebron shot 36 percent. Kobe shot 30 percent. Forward Kevin Love was in the 3-point shootout at the All-Star Game. Fact is, almost everybody in today's NBA shoots jump shots.
Now, all this doesn't mean that the players on Team USA are more accomplished or will have better careers than the members of the Dream Team, which had 11 Hall of Fame players on its 12-man roster.
To be honest, I only see four or five HoFers on the Team USA roster: Bryant, James, Durant and Chris Paul. Anthony Davis. Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams have an outside shot at getting in as well.
I'm also not saying that there aren't certain areas where the Dream Team would dominate Team USA -- most notably, the center position and rebounding. Plus, I think the Dream Team has a certain "old school" toughness that Team USA would have a hard time dealing with.
So, if I had to choose a winner in a one-game, winner-take-all scenario where both teams were completely fresh and injury-free, I'd put my money on the Dream Team. I'd also probably take them in a game-seven scenario.
However, in an Olympic-style tournament, where both teams would have to go through the current international competition -- competition that is much tougher now than what the Dream Team had to deal with in 1992 (ironically enough, because of the influence the Dream Team had on international basketball) -- I'd have to go with Team USA in the Gold Medal game.
And if the teams were to play in a traditional seven-game format, I'd pick Team USA in six.
Borderline blasphemy I know. It actual hurts a bit to write this column, but now that I'm older, more mature and cry at sappy television features, I know that sometimes, truth hurts.
If you have comments on this or anything to do with sports, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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