There are certain sporting events you can remember just like they were yesterday. Many basketball fans won’t forget where they were for each game of the 1992 Olympics.
If you don’t remember, that year of the Olympics, held in Barcelona, Spain, featured the original “Dream Team.” The summer of ’92 was spent watching that team crush everyone who got in its way and bring high-level basketball to the rest of the world.
Many people might not remember that the U.S. finished third in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, as the country was only able to use college players. NBA players were finally allowed to play in the next Olympics.
The amazing thing is that every NBA player on the ’92 USA basketball team roster earned a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as an individual. The only player who did not get in the Hall of Fame individually was Christian Laettner, who had just finished his career at Duke University.
There was plenty of drama with the team. Everyone in USA Basketball wanted Michael Jordan to play in the ’92 Olympics, but he allegedly said that he wouldn’t play if Isiah Thomas was on the team.
Thomas got left off the roster, and Jordan ended up being the only player to start every game in the Olympics. Clyde Drexler ended up on the roster instead of Thomas, and even John Stockton, who was recovering from a broken leg, still made the roster before the former Detroit Piston.
The snub of Thomas and the inclusion of Laettner over Shaquille O’Neal are two of the biggest controversies that fans still discuss. Shaq had a better NBA career, but Laettner might have been the best college basketball player ever, hitting a shot that will be remembered forever against the University of Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
People forget that the Dream Team had to qualify for the Olympics in the Tournament of the Americas. The team easily marched through that tournament to reach the Olympics.
When the Olympics started, opposing teams wanted to get the NBA celebrities’ pictures and autographs more than play basketball. Some of the greatest basketball stars to ever play the sport were on the Dream Team.
Charles Barkley led the team in scoring with 18 points per game, and Jordan finished second in scoring with 14.9 points per game. However, two of the greatest players on that team were near the end of their careers.
Larry Bird was having severe back problems during those Olympics. He won a gold medal that year and retired after returning home a few weeks later. Magic Johnson had announced that he had been diagnosed with HIV and was at the end of his career at that point. He returned to basketball for just 32 games in the 1995-1996 season before retiring for good.
The Dream Team took every opponent that it faced behind the woodshed. The team won by an average of 43.8 points per game, and its closest match was 32-point victory over Croatia in the gold medal game.
The team went a perfect eight for eight in the 1992 Olympics. Most games were a rout, as the team averaged 117.3 points per contest, with one of the U.S.’s biggest victories being a 68-point win over Angola.
It was the greatest collection of basketball talent. The gold-medal celebration happened 25 years ago today, but the memories will stay with us for a lifetime.