If we took the members of the '92 Dream Team*, most of whom are in their late 40s now, and let them compete in London, could they win a medal? If they had actually trained and prepared for a year or so, I think they could. Gold would be a stretch, but I really think they could hang with the likes of Italy, France and other teams that might compete for bronze.
*In case it’s not obvious, I’m referring to the 1992 US Olympic basketball team.
The NBA used to have (1983-94) an old-timers game as part of the All-Star game weekend festivities but it was cancelled due to frequent player injuries and not wanting to see old-favorite players keel over from massive heart attacks.
Today, no way, the international game is too strong. I wonder, though, about the teams they faced in '92. How would the old men fare if they spent a few months training, then entered a time machine to compete for a second time?
My guess, they hold their own in the half court game, but have a real problem in transition. Then, as the competition continues, injuries and fatigue plague them, and they finish out of medal contention, but having been respectably competitive.
This isn’t 1992 any more, and the rest of the world’s basketball teams would no longer stand back in awe of the Dream Team.
Back then, I regularly saw opposing players SMILING, as if they were thinking, “WOW, that was MICHAEL FREAKING JORDAN who just slam dunked in my face! Oh boy, that was MAGIC JOHNSON who just made me look stupid… isn’t this GREAT?”
But just a few years later, the likes of Lithuania were giving our best pros fits.
The rest of the world isn’t QUITE as good at basketball as the elite American players, but they have definitely caught up. An American college all-star team could never win a medal against the best foreign pros, and neither could a team of washed-up, over-the-hill American stars.
Greece and Spain, among others, wouldn’t just BEAT a forty-something Dream Team, they’d SLAUGHTER them.
Did the 1992 team even do that much practicing together? Did they do anything more than show up and wallop the Washington Generals?
We’ve seen, in both the Olympics and the World Championships, that the USA can no longer win by just throwing an All-Star team together at the last minute. We TRIED that, and found that foreign teams (who’d practiced and played together for years) were cleaning our clocks!
Even a team with Magic, Bird, Jordan and Stockton in their PRIMES would have to do a lot more than just show up. They’d actually need coaching, practice, and time to gel.
I could see Jordan getting himself back in great shape and being an effective player, though not Michael Jordan!!!. The only one I could maybe see really being good is Stockton, and that’s based on the assumption he’s kept himself in good shape. His game also could still translate pretty well, I think. He wasn’t reliant on great athleticism. The others are too old, too injured, or way too far out of shape.
Oh, maybe Malone, too. He strikes me as a person who would take pride in not showing up at the Hall of Fame or a Utah Jazz event weighing 400 lbs and looking terrible. I don’t remember him having many issues with injuries, so I think he could be an effective player. That’s 3 out of 12 going against Spain, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, and other countries with players in their prime. A bronze for the Dream Team would be an upset.
There was a lot of “fun” behind the scenes apparently. NBA TV put out a documentary about the Dream Team (and presumably will rerun it endlessly now that the season is over) and this week’s SI has a story about “The Greatest Game You Never Saw” about a Dream Team scrimmage.
These guys from the '92 team could probably get in Olympic playing shape if given a year:
These guys are questionable, but could probably get back in shape if given the time:
Larry Bird is 55, I think the oldest of the group, and has known back problems that would probably prevent him from playing well, if at all. The core of the team is in their late 40’s, so they’re not senior citizens.
Spain and Argenina would probably mop the floor with the old guys. But I gotta believe they’d at least qualify against the likes of, what, Mexico? Cuba?
The youngest player on that team, Christian Laettner, is 42 years old. He retired 6 years ago. The next youngest guy was David Robinson, who is 46 and retired 9 years ago. They would be playing against actual NBA players in their 20s and 30s.
You mean the “legends game” (that got replaced with the Rookies (now Rookies vs. Second-Year) Game)? I think they stopped doing that because it started changing from a basketball game into a comedy routine - literally. The same thing happened with the NHL version.
It was fun for a few years, but the gimmick, like the players, grew old.
“Get rid of the shot clock”? Little-known fact: there was a shot clock at the 1972 Olympics, although it was a set of six lights (one for every five seconds) instead of a digital one, which I think they did have in 1976.
I can’t imagine that any dynamic sports team could re-assemble 20 years on and be in any way competitive.
I looked at the England Euro squad from 1992 and considered the best 11 from that list and what shape they could be in after a year of training. Know what? they would probably get hammered by England’s current U-17 team and certainly any reasonably organised League 2 team.
If basketball relies heavily on physical conditioning then the downward gradient after 40 is just too much to overcome.