When the London Olympics start the hopes of many American basketball fans will be to have a second run at history.
The London Games start on 27 July and the USA team takes yet another cast of superstar talent. This one, however, seems to be even more loaded than those in years past.
The most immediate of star power being centred over their core players: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, but those are just a few of the names that are set to compete for the US’s second consecutive Olympic gold.
Team USA’s roster was finalised last week and there is no shortage of elite NBA talent: Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets), Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder), Bryant (L.A Lakers), James Harden (OKC Thunder), James (Miami Heat), Anthony (New York Knicks), Durant (OKC Thunder), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), Blake Griffin (L.A Clippers) and Tyson Chandler (N.Y Knicks).
Each player is a star in their own right and some can even play any position from handling the point guard duties to being an anchor at the centre position.
Team USA is as versatile as any team ever assembled in the past, featuring championship talent and experience across the board.
Each member has either won gold medals or a world championship in 2010 when the USA brought a team full of new young talent and managed to win gold at the championships in Turkey.
Despite a talented roster across the board, there was a smaller pool of players head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Sha-shef-ski) had to choose from because of injury, “Injury definitely left me and the coaching staff with less to choose from, I mean as you can see it’s not like we really suffered, but players like Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade would have all been locks to make the team if they were healthy.” Krzyzewski explained.
But, with star NBA players injured, there is still more than enough on the Olympic roster to bring home a gold medal this summer. In fact, they are so talented that sheer dominance is expected throughout the entirety of international exhibition games leading up to the tournament, and in the tournament itself.
Fittingly, comparisons to the 1992 ‘Dream Team’ have been drawn, and the debate about which one is better has been in full flight ever since their first practice.
To players on the 2012 roster, it seems like they’re done debating. “Well, just from a basketball standpoint, they obviously have a lot more size than we do, you know with David Robinson and Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone and those guys,” said star veteran shooting guard Bryant.
“But some of those wing players were also a lot older, at kind of the end of their careers. We have just a bunch of young racehorses, guys that are eager to compete. So I don’t know. It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out. Defensively? I’d obviously take Michael Jordan, LeBron would be on Magic and the rest would follow suit.”
Those are match ups that NBA fans and critics would dream about under the heaviest of medication, match ups that would cause any sports fan to salivate at the thought of.
Star point guard Chris Paul put it quite simply: “Well, I’m a little biased cause I’m on this team. But, I definitely like our chances,” he said. “I guess I’d be guarding Stockton, huh? First I’d probably try and find some shorts that fit him” Paul joked, players before the millennium wore shorts that seemed to be smaller than boxers are in today’s world.
Fresh off his first career championship, King James seemed to subtly agree with his five-time champion teammate in Bryant. “Well they say that’s the best team ever assembled, so I would definitely want to challenge them. Our speed is second-to-none, it would definitely be a good one,” said James.
But Krzyzewski, who was also an assistant coach on the ‘92 team, put the debate in perspective. “In their prime? No, no team would ever beat the 1992 dream team if Bird, Magic, Jordan and Stockton were all in their prime. There’s no question. But some of those guys were near the ends of their careers, Larry Bird had back problems, Magic had been out a year and Stockton wasn’t 100 per cent either.”
Charles Barkley, a retired NBA star who played on the 1992 team said: “Other than Kobe, LeBron and Durant, I don’t think anybody else on this year’s team makes our team,” seemingly putting all comparisons to rest - in his own mind at least.
The 2012 Olympic team is full of star athletes. James has the capability of playing any position, so does Durant. Their scoring, defence and athleticism is the best the basketball world has seen since the ‘92 dream team and the comparisons will never stop, especially if the USA team goes 8-0 en route to a gold medal.
The reality of the situation is nobody will ever know and no players who are parts of either team will agree to inferiority. Numbers don’t lie and the results of this year’s Olympic basketball team will either intensify or quieten the debate.