Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have both said that they think this year’s USA Olympic Men’s basketball team could beat the Dream Team of 1992. During preparations for the Olympics, Bryant told the media, “It would be a tough one, but I think we would pull it out. People who think we can’t beat that team for one game, they are crazy. To sit there and say we can’t, it’s ludicrous. We can beat them one time.” James chimed in later, in an interview before the games with ABC’s Cynthia McFadden. “The ’92 Dream Team paved the way for all of us … We understand what they did for our game, but we also are big-time competitors as well, so if we got the opportunity to play them in a game we feel like we would win, too,” James said. I scoffed at the notion, in part because I believe that the original Dream Team was the greatest collection of talent ever put together in team sports. I continued to believe that team was better – until the U.S. clobbered Nigeria by 83 points on Thursday. Eighty-three.
It was the biggest margin of victory in U.S. international basketball history, eclipsing the 1956 squad’s 72-point blowout of Thailand. The Dream Team beat Angola by 68 for their largest margin of victory, and their average margin was 43.8 points per game. So far in three games, the 2012 team has won by 27 over France and 47 over Tunisia, plus the historic 83-point rout of Nigeria, for an average winning margin of 52.3. This team’s 156 points against Nigeria were 29 more than The Dream Team scored in any game of the ’92 tournament.
So far, this team has been more impressive than that one. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley say we can start making comparisons when 11 members of this year’s team make the Hall of Fame. That’s fair. Their collection of talent was very likely superior. But, against what would logically be better competition, with globalization of basketball 20 years farther down the road, this team has performed better three games into the tournament, outscoring their opponents by four more points a game three games in. This team could be a better T-E-A-M, even though their group of individuals doesn’t match up.
I’ll be interested to see how the rest of this tournament plays out. It’s been a pretty good draw for the Americans so far. They’ll see a pesky Lithuanian team on Saturday, and then the country that won gold in 2004, Argentina, on Monday. Russia and Spain are both 3-0 in Group B, although their wins aren’t nearly as impressive. But Spain could cause matchup problems for the U.S. inside, with Marc and Paul Gasol. Of course, the United States caused some outside matchup problems for Nigeria by hitting a whopping 63 percent from three-point land, hitting 29 of 46 shots from beyond the arc.
It’s only one game, but it’s the most impressive game I’ve ever seen a U.S. basketball team play. Perhaps I was too early to dismiss the comments of Bryant and James as hyperbole.