(Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant created quite a stir recently when he claimed
the 2012 USA Olympic basketball team could beat the original 1992 Dream Team.
This year's version is extremely versatile and athletic, headlined by two of
the best players in NBA history, Bryant and LeBron James, along with another
who seems destined to go down as one of the greatest pure scorers of all-time,
On the other hand the 1992 lineup featured Hall of Fame players like Michael
Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, David
Robinson and Chris Mullin.
Shane Battier shared a locker room with James this past season en route to
earning an NBA title with the Miami Heat. However, when it comes to comparing
James' current bunch with the Dream Team, Battier went with the originals.
"Every last one of those guys is in the Hall of Fame; first ballot Hall-of-
Famers," said Battier at the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe
Golf Course. "I don't think you'll ever see a collection of talent that's as
deep and as good as 1992.
"If they played against each other it would be a heck of a game, but I'm
partial to the '92 team. For my money, its the greatest team ever assembled."
Battier was just 14 in 1992 but he fell in love with the game watching
Jordan, Bird and Barkley among others. Jordan, in particular, carried a
love-hate relationship in Battier's basketball upbringing.
"I always respected what Michael could do, but I couldn't love him," said
Battier, a Motor City native. "I was all Detroit; Bad Boys all the way."
Barkley himself was even more certain about the outcome.
"Only Kobe and LeBron; those are the only two guys who would make our team,"
concluded Barkley. "They are two of the 10 greatest players ever in the game.
I think we win by 15 or 20 points.
"We're too big for them. They've got a very small team and I think we could
wear Kobe and LeBron down by putting a bunch of bodies on them. But, I think
the main thing is that Patrick Ewing and David Robinson would just punish them
Ewing and Robinson, of course, are both Hall of Fame big men while the 2012
USMNT sports just one legitimate center, Tyson Chandler. Chandler, the New
York Knicks center, was the 2011-12 NBA Defensive Player of the Year but isn't
nearly the offensive threat that Ewing or Robinson were.
Former sharpshooter and current announcer Steve Kerr, who also spent time as
the Phoenix Suns general manager, also agreed that the old guard would win.
"You throw it in a simulator and see what comes out, but I'm partial to the
'92 team," said Kerr, a five-time NBA champion who retired from his front
office job in 2010. "I think it's the greatest team ever assembled; the
firepower on that team with Jordan, (Scottie) Pippen and Barkley. Pretty tough
Even the President of the United States chimed in with his thoughts while
attending the exhibition game between Brazil and Team USA in the nation's
capital earlier this week.
"This is a generational thing," Barack Obama said during a halftime interview
with ESPN2. "I was around in '92, I was a Bulls fan, so I've got to go with
the original Dream Team."
Obama tapped into something there though, it is a generational thing.
People look back at the '92 team and forget the warts, the fact that Bird
wasn't much of a factor due to back issues and a number of the players on the
team weren't exactly known for their defensive acumen. Meanwhile, the
competition the U.S. was facing at the time was far behind the curve.
This year's group certainly couldn't beat the 1992 Dream Team in a seven-game
series but James, Bryant or Durant are capable of carrying things on any given
night and fueling an upset.
Meanwhile, understand the 2012 team is a banged-up bunch. Sprinkle in the
injured Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Derrick Rose and this
year's club is a lot closer to the '92 team than most think.
-Craig Smith, former director of media relations for the U.S. Golf
Association, contributed to this article.
The Sports Network