Interview with Dream Team Author Jack McCallum

By
Updated: July 21, 2012

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the “Dream Team” captivated the sports world and won the gold at the Olympic Games in Barcelona.  They were a collection of talent unlike any other, featuring 11 future Hall of Famers and in Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, a few players largely considered amongst the greatest of all time.  Through the years this squad has been the subject of much discussion and intrigue, and sportswriter and author Jack McCallum’s recent release of Dream Team:  How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever provides us with an outstanding behind the scenes look at a team that the general public still can’t seem to get enough of. 

 

Having spent my formative years following the exploits of the players on the 1992 “Dream Team” (I was always a Barkley guy), I picked up a copy of this book as soon as I could.  While we all know what happened on the court in Barcelona, Dream Team goes into great detail regarding what was going on behind closed doors, such as the formation of the team, personal battles between players, the late night card games, golf outings, and the relationships and strong bonds that developed.  These are just a few of the entertaining aspects covered in a book that is really about the players who cultivated the golden age of the NBA and impacted an entire generation of players both in the United States and abroad. 

 

Jack is overseas in London getting ready for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, but was nice enough to take a few minutes out of his day to answer some questions about Dream Team.

 

 

PAC:  How do you feel Dream Team has been received by the public since its release?  Have you gotten a lot of positive feedback?

 

Jack McCallum:  Frankly, the reception has astonished me.  In the following week’s NY Times, it will be No. 3 on the non-fiction best-seller list.  People just love these guys.

  

PAC:  The timing of this book feels right with the London Olympics approaching and it being twenty years since the “Dream Team” captivated the world, but did you have any thoughts of writing this book immediately after this group’s gold medal run in the 1992 Olympics? 

 

Jack McCallum:  I had a contract to do just that.  But the publisher called it off halfway through the 91-92 season before the “Dream Team” even got together.  I think he had the idea that these guys would be playing an entire season together. 

 

PAC:  You’ve written a number of books (Unfinished Business, Seven Seconds or Less, etc.), was Dream Team your most challenging to date?  Most rewarding? 

 

Jack McCallum:  All challenging in their own way, but what made this the most was the necessity of getting to all the guys.  That’s never easy.  It takes weeks of scheduling.  But once I got them it was all good.  And it’s the most rewarding because so many people are buying it and liking it.

 

PAC:  What were your favorite moments from your time covering the “Dream Team”?

 

Jack McCallum:  The little bits of humor that would come out.  Barkley on the Ramblas.  Bird’s sarcasm during press conferences.  The way the guys goofed on each other. 

 

PAC:  Is there any story or urban legend about this team that you get asked about most frequently (i.e. Isiah being left off, relationship between players, the scrimmage in Monte Carlo)?

 

Jack McCallum:  I am amazed, years later, how frequently the Isiah issue comes up.  The scrimmage would be second but only because it was excerpted in SI; I don’t think people were all that aware of it. 

 

PAC:  Was Pippen and Jordan’s dismantling of Toni Kukoc in the first Croatia game one of the most impressive defensive exhibitions you have ever witnessed? 

 

Jack McCallum:  I don’t think we were that aware of it at the time, though it was a story.  I thought that Jordan’s coverage of Sarunas Marciulionis in the Lithuania game was more amazing.

 

PAC:  Were you or any of the other writers covering the “Dream Team” surprised at the dominant level of play of Barkley exhibited in the Olympic Games? 

 

Jack McCallum:  Those of us around the league knew how good he was.  What did surprise us, I think, was the extent to which the team trusted him.  He became their go-to guy; that was a surprise. 

 

PAC:  Did the ability, competitiveness, and drive of Michael Jordan stand out even in comparison to the other all-time greats on the Dream Team?

 

Jack McCallum:  I remember turning to a few of my contemporaries and saying:  We know one thing this proved: Jordan is twice as good as everybody else.  They agreed. 

 

PAC:  It appeared that a number of things were working against Isiah Thomas as the team was being put together, and he was eventually excluded from the team.  Are you on one side or the other on whether or not Jordan should’ve had a say in the matter?

 

Jack McCallum:  “Should” is the operative word.  No, in reality, he shouldn’t have.  But this is a pragmatic decision.  So if you asked me, given a chance to take Jordan or Isiah, I would’ve taken Jordan.  It’s harsh.  But true.  

 

PAC:  What were your thoughts on “The Dream Team” documentary produced by NBA TV?  I watched it again the other night and the legendary Monte Carlo game in the documentary seems off compared to the breakdown you did in your book. 

 

Jack McCallum:  They did a wonderful job on almost everything, but they did play fast and loose with the scrimmage video, mixing in snippets from other scrimmages to match the memories of the players, which were not always crystal-clear.

 

PAC:  You touched on this in your book, but why do you think this team was so revered, then and now? 

 

Jack McCallum:  People saw it as the golden age of the NBA.  And sports fans ALWAYS want to think things were better BACK THEN.  The fact that it’s true in this case closes the case. 

    

PAC:  I saw you discussed and broke down a hypothetical matchup between the ’92 team and the 2012 team in a post on your blog in great detail, at the end of the day do you think it would be a close game?

 

Jack McCallum:  Ten games–five “Dream Team” blowouts.  Five close games.  Two 2012 victories.

 But, hey, that’s just a guess.

 


Thanks again to Jack for his time.  For more information on this book (including his interviews with the players today) along with his other work please check out
http://www.jackmccallum.net/.

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