Summer Olympics, 1992.
The American basketball squad
was called The Dream Team; it was
the first time they’d let all the
NBA players of the day into the
national team. It was like something
out of an action movie; a revenge-play
because they’d been beaten by the
Soviet Union. They couldn’t get Sly Stallone,
Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal. Jean-Claude Van Damme
and Arnie Schwarzenegger as their
starting-five. But they could get The Basketball
Equivalent – which was way more useful, given
that it was for a basketball tournament.
So Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic
Johnson, Larry Bird, Karl Malone instead.
Also Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, John Stockton
and David Robinson.
In a nod to the old days – the previous Olympics
when none of the pros were allowed in the
game, they chose one college kid too. It
was Christian Laettner, ahead of a young
I watched The Dream Team. I was in awe
of The Dream Team. I loved The Dream
Team. Though I was a massive
fan of Isiah Thomas. And he should have been
in the line-up – but he wasn’t allowed. There was
a story that Michael Jordan wouldn’t go if Thomas
was there as well. Magic Johnson wasn’t much of
a fan either. Thomas had a reputation as one of the
bad boys. I though he was the king. A killer-good
player and back then the Detroit Pistons were my
team. I had a ball all emblazoned with their logo
and emblem. I was a mad-keen basketball fan and
Isiah was my star.
But they did let Clyde Drexler into the team (instead
of Thomas) and I was a big Drexler fan too. My brother
and I would watch him in the slam dunk contests and he
was killer-good too but he never could beat Air Jordan. I mean
that would be like competing against The Beatles or Bob Dylan
when trying to write a good song.
The Dream Team went to the Olympics. And of course they
slayed. They were like a For Real Version of The Harlem
Globetrotters crossed with The All Blacks – just total
dominance, a thrill-ride of absurdly good talent and
technique and perfect execution.
Someone said they were like The Allman Brothers at
the Fillmore West. And I always liked that comparison.
They were Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, was another.
If I added my own I’d say they were Truman Capote
writing In Cold Blood or Norman Mailer having written
The Executioner’s Song.
Charles Barkley was the man that scored the most
points. Jordan was a marked man but he shadow-boxed
his way around them all. Magic Johnson was the dying
man that was reborn as a result. (And still with us now.
A miracle of sorts). Larry Bird was the broken old man
that was there for the legacy. He had earned his stripes
so many times over. Scottie Pippen was the young blood.
And they all had a story. They all had insane talent. They
all had the skills to carry a team of lesser gods to victory
on their own.
It was the right time for me. I was so into basketball.
I was getting pretty good too. In the backyard. One on
one. Computer games too – and had the Jordan boots,
the Pistons ball and hat, a poster of Karl Malone. They
called him the mailman. Because he always delivered.
But my dad didn’t want a big old ugly basketball hoop
towering over our shed. So he built one that was about a foot
and a half shorter. (“In keeping with the house”).
It meant when I got on the real court I threw bricks.
It meant when I got in the real game I played ugly.
It meant when I shot long I threw flat and hard and
it was always a surprise as it circled the rim three or
four times. It would sometimes go in, sometimes not, often
in and then out – around again and then out when it
The Dream Team though. That was really something.
I dreamed my basketball dreams as I watched them
destroy all that even tried stand in their way. My own
path to the hoop halted by a car in the garage and a
neighbor that would keep our ball in his house when
it bounced off that lowered rim and fell over the fence.