The Dream Team Documentary

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Updated: June 15, 2012

Last night NBA TV premiered a feature on the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled, the 1992 “Dream Team”.  Crazy to think that’s it has already been twenty years since this team captivated the world’s attention and created a legacy that carries on to this day.    

The documentary began by discussing how by 1988 (after the U.S. took home a disappointing bronze medal in the ’88 Olympics), a good portion of the world had caught up to United States in basketball.  The caveat here of course is that other countries were using professional players in the Games, while the U.S. was still sending over college kids. 

In 1989 a resolution was passed that allowed professional players from all leagues to be eligible to compete in the Olympics, including those in NBA.  The big question that had to be asked though was did the best players in the league even want to represent their country in Barcelona?  The first player the Selection Committee asked was none other than the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan.  Jordan admitted that he was honestly hoping that they didn’t ask him to participate and that he wanted to decline the offer.  The Committee prodded him and spoke to his ego (this is bigger than the NBA Finals), and he eventually relented after finding out who else was going to be on the team.  All of the other players who were asked seemed extremely honored and ready to go to work.

A few of the more intriguing and amusing parts of the film came up next.  The coach of the “Dream Team” was Chuck Daly, who at the time was the head man of the Detroit Pistons and their infamous “Bad Boys”.  Would he be able to handle all the egos on this once in lifetime all-star team?  No worries according to Charles Barkley, who in the quote of the night said “He coached the Bad Boys, and if you can coach those assholes you can coach anybody”.  Isiah Thomas was not picked for the team, a decision that was surprising in basketball circles (at the time and still to this day) but welcomed by many members of the squad.  Scottie Pippen was brutally honest in his feelings towards Thomas, saying flat out that he despised the way he played the game and that he didn’t want him on the team.  Many feel that Jordan was behind the Isiah snub, but MJ conveyed in the documentary that the stipulation was made to him before he committed that Thomas would not be part of the team (probably done to appease MJ).  Russ Granik and others indicated that part of the reason Isiah wasn’t included was due to bad timing; the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals had just ended, and in one final act of defiance Isiah and the “Bad Boys” left the court before the final buzzer sounded, refusing to shake hands with MJ and the rest of the Bulls team who had just destroyed them.  This bush league act didn’t curry favor with members of the Committee. 

When the team comes together and goes off to training camp we are privy to some awesome behind the scenes footage of the practices.  These scenes included the “Dream Team’s” scrimmage against the “Select Team” of college players, players like Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley, and Chris Webber.  The Select Team amazingly won the first scrimmage by a score of 62-54, with Coach K later admitting that Daly “threw the game” to prove a point that they could be beaten.  Bobby Hurley seemed to believe they won the game straight up (Coach K made a hilarious Santa Claus/Easter Bunny analogy related to this) , but he might’ve changed his tune after they played again the next day and the Select Team got trounced by a hundred points or so.

The team made a pit stop in Monte Carlo before heading to Barcelona, and this where some of the great folk stories of the “Dream Team’s” time together originated from.  There was Pippen and Barkley enjoying the topless beaches and pools, Barkley and Ewing’s drinking session with Larry Bird (he was a big fan of the Bud heavy), MJ and Daly golfing every day and scheduling the team’s practice time around their golf schedule, and 5 a.m. card games in Magic’s room on a nightly basis.  Some air time was devoted here to Jordan and how he never seemed to sleep, always going from one thing to the next (be it cards, gambling, basketball, golf).  Monte Carlo was also the scene of the legendary practice session between the members of the “Dream Team”, where they split up sides and went it.  The trash talk was flying around nonstop, with Magic at the forefront with his energy and trying to prove to MJ that he still had it.  Pippen made note of Jordan’s competitive nature, how much he hates to lose, and how he “gets that look” – that look being give me the dam ball and get out of my way.  It was evolving into a Magic vs. Michael game, and Daly realized things were getting a little too competitive and shut it down (Magic later said this was the best game he had been involved in).  Jordan’s team won the battle, with Bird and Magic having to concede that MJ was without question the best player on the club.  By the end of their time in Monte Carlo the team was becoming incredibly close, both on and off the court. 

The scenes and footage shown of the Summer Olympics in Barcelona was great to relive.  The “Dream Team” was unquestionably the main attraction of the entire spectacle, drawing huge crowds everywhere they went.  The Barkley/Angola elbow incident and the mild uproar it caused was discussed (interesting to note that Barkley eventually became the unofficial ambassador of the team, always out walking amongst the people, taking in the entire experience), but even more fascinating was the MJ/Pippen led destruction of Croatia by Team U.S.A .  Chicago GM Jerry Krause was courting Croatia’s Toni Kukoc to join the Bull’s at the time, a move that left current members of the team upset because they had contract issues of their own that hadn’t been addressed.  MJ and Pippen set out give Kukoc the worst experience of his life on a basketball court, with Pippen even quipping “we wanted to go guard him on the bench”.   The two best perimeter defenders in the game at that time succeeded in their plan.  

The “Dream Team” inevitably overwhelmed the competition to win the gold medal, winning all of their games by an average margin of 43.8 points per game.  The documentary ends with a look at the team’s impact on the international game and how they made basketball a worldwide game.  Overall, it was great to look back at this era of basketball and to get to see the players I grew up watching.  All of the behind the scenes stories were great, especially the ones involving Jordan’s competitive fire and how this experience meant the world to Magic.  I only wish they could’ve shown more footage of the scrimmages and practices as that footage is timeless, and hopefully whoever has access to that Monte Carlo practice battle royal will eventually be able to release it on a public domain for all to see.   

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