The gold medal run of the 2008 US Men’s Basketball team captured America’s first
gold medal since 2000 in dominating fashion. The squad was able to impose its
will upon every team it faced, and played a beautiful brand of team basketball
that produced several amazing individual highlights. The 2008 Redeem Team will
go down in history as one of the best teams in history, and will be remembered
Now, a debate has opened up. Could the Redeem Team take out the originators, the
legendary Dream Team?
It’s easy to get excited over the US triumph in Beijing. After a long drought,
American basketball is back on top.
But, beating the Dream Team? Now you’re dreaming.
Let’s look at the facts: 20% of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players
were on the original Dream Team. Of the six players in NBA history who have won
three or more MVP awards, half of them were Dream Teamers (Magic Johnson, Michael
Jordan and Larry Bird). By the summer of 1992, the individual members of the Dream
Team had combined to win 12 NBA Championships.
They didn’t call the 1980-1993 period "The Golden Age of Basketball"
for nothing. These were the best players in NBA history, and the Dream Team was
the best sports team ever assembled.
Frankly, I don’t think this needs to be done. The Dream Team wins. But, let’s
break down the matchup, position by position, anyway.
Redeem Team: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd
Dream Team: Magic Johnson, John Stockton
Credit to the US brass. Jerry Colangelo realized the importance of strong guards
play in the modern international game, and stocked his team chock full of talented
point-men. The tandem of Chris Paul and Deron Williams played excellently when
paired together, penetrating the lane at will, setting up teammates and pushing
But, the Redeem Team point-guard trio runs into the two best distributing point
guards ever, Magic Johnson and John Stockton. Magic and his ability to post up
the smaller Paul may cause problems, and Stockton’s grittiness and shot making
ability would also present issues.
I’ll give the advantage to the Redeem Team. An aging Johnson and the comparatively
slower Stockton would have their hands full with the explosive combo of Williams
and Paul. Williams had the strength and size to keep Magic from backing him in
at will, and Paul’s blazing quickness would dust Magic and Stock time and time
Edge: Redeem Team
Redeem Team: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Michael Redd
Dream Team: Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler
Anybody who watched the Beijing squad knows that the Redeem Team’s strength was
in its wing players. At the 2-guard position, the All-NBA combination of Kobe
Bryant and Dwyane Wade saw most of the action. Bryant struggled to consistently
nail perimeter shots, but came up in big moments against Spain to lift the United
States to the championship. Wade, who sat out most of the 2008 season with injuries,
was back to his 2006 Finals MVP form. He fearlessly drove the lane, scored from
midrange and terrorized opposing ballhandlers.
On the other side, the Dream team had Michael Jordan in his prime. That alone
is enough to give the overall edge to the Dream Team. They also had Clyde Drexler,
a gifted scorer and athlete who enjoyed a career year in 1992. In fact, he came
second to Jordan in 1992 MVP votes. His sick athleticism and great scoring ability
would make Wade and Bryant work hard when Jordan was on the bench.
The matchup of Kobe-MJ (both 29 years of age ironically) is enough to captivate
even the most casual of sports fans. If the game were to become a reality, it
would go a long way in settling the debate of Kobe vs. Jordan.
My view? MJ would annihilate Kobe. Let’s just think about this for a second. In
addition to being the best, most complete, and most successful basketball player
ever, Jordan was also the most competitive player ever.
Whoever rose to challenge his reign, whether it was Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler,
Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, or Reggie Miller, Jordan ruthlessly vanquished them.
Kobe, a player who has received MJ comparisons for most of his career, would share
the same fate as his predecessors. Jordan would relish the individual matchup
against Bryant, and he would prove once and for all that he is a superior player.
The individual challenge, in addition to the team challenge, would drive MJ to
propel the Dream Team to victory.
Edge: Dream Team
Redeem Team: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Tayshaun Prince
Dream Team: Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Chris Mullin
LeBron James showed us that he is a force on the FIBA court, dominating both offensively and defensively. His versatility and all-around game make him the most dangerous threat to the Dream Team. ‘Melo’s refined mid-range game translates very well onto FIBA courts, where he has range out to the three-point line. Prince and his long wingspan has the ability to cause problems as well.
But, the Dream Team’s list of small forwards could possibly counter all of this. Even at the end of his career, Bird was a better shooter than anybody on the Redeem roster. Mullin was possessed an offensive arsenal who could score from anywhere on the court. And Scottie Pippen was a superb defensive stopper who could guard anybody on the perimeter.
The obvious matchup here is LeBron, the most dynamic blend of skill and athleticism we’ve ever witnessed, against the best perimeter defender ever, Scottie Pippen.
So would the quick and long Pippen be able to matchup with the physically superior James? We’ll give the benefit of the doubt to LeBron. I mean after all, we’re all witnesses, right? LBJ is a once in a generation type of player who is an elite athlete who possesses elite talent and I think he’d score on anybody, even the most lockdown defender of all time.
Edge: Redeem Team
Redeem Team: Carlos Boozer
Dream Team: Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Christian Laettner
Michael Jordan himself is a great reason why the Dream Teamers
would win, but the Dream Team’s deep group of physical, versatile All-Star big
men is another excellent one.
By summer ’92, Charles Barkley was playing the best basketball of his career and
he would go on to lead the Phoenix Suns to an NBA Finals berth the following season,
while winning the MVP. Karl Malone was also playing outstanding basketball, putting
up the consistently excellent numbers that we would come to expect from him.
Team USA apparently doesn’t like its Dukies. Both products of Coach K, Laettner
and Boozer were the 12th men of their respective teams, and hardly ever saw the
With Malone and Barkley, two of the best rebounders in NBA history, the Dream
Team would control the glass and limit the athletic Redeem Teamers to one shot
on offense. Though the Redeem Team vastly outscored their opponents, they were
only able to manage a +6 advantage on the boards in Beijing. The Redeem Team was
criticized at times for its lack of physicality inside. Barkley and Malone, two
of the most physical players ever, would have a field day in the paint. The Dream
Team’s strength up front would expose the Redeem Team’s glaring hole inside, and
their bruising style would wear down the thin Redeem Team frontline.
Edge: Dream Team
Redeem Team: Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard
Dream Team: Patrick Ewing, David Robinson
The international game favors versatile centers that can face up and shoot, and
the Dream Team has two of the best face-up centers ever in Patrick Ewing and David
Robinson. Both stand at 7 feet and both had range out to 15 (Ewing even to 18),
and both were excellent protectors of the rim. The Admiral averaged an astounding
4.5 blocks during the 1991-1992 season, and was the League’s most dangerous shot
blocker at the time.
Dwight Howard is a worse version of Robinson. Robinson shared Howard’s body type,
but had a much more refined overall game. In an era that lacks old-school centers,
Howard can get by on his freakish athleticism and strength. He has no post-moves
and no jump shot. Dwight would do well to bring a notepad and paper, so that he
could jot down a few pointers from David while he was getting schooled.
The Beijing Blog praised Chris Bosh for his energy and his high level of play,
but the wiry Georgia Tech would be in over his head against the bigger and stronger
Dream Team centers.
Edge: Dream Team
So, there you have it. The Dream Team would win. Would it be a blowout? Absolutely
not. The Redeem Team boasts some of the best athletes to ever walk a basketball
court, and has plenty of wing players to force its up-tempo style.
But, the Dream Team had Michael Jordan and a host of big men that would pound
the smaller Redeem Team into submission. Jordan never lost any major game, and
he would do whatever it took to insure victory.
The Redeem Team might have a shot in a 7 game series due to having fresher legs,
but in an Olympic one game format, age would be less of a factor.
They say there’s nothing like the original. The Dream Team was the best ever,
and will never be touched.
Final Score: 110-97, Dream Team