If there’s one thing the Olympics offers better than any other sporting event, it’s an iconic moment. Every time the Games come around, there is at least one thing that takes America, if not the world, by storm, whether it’s Jesse Owens taking down the Germans in Berlin 1936, The Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid 1980 or Michael Phelps just barely setting a record with eight gold medals.
My all-time Olympic memory, though, happened when I was just 4 years old, when the United States took back the title of world basketball champions by assembling the Dream Team and annihilating the competition at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. I talked about the Dream Team previously on the Twenty & Change blog, but it can’t be stated enough: This was the greatest assembly of talent sports has ever seen. At least, it was the greatest disparity between the best and the rest.
The team featured the best of the best in the NBA: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen … each player on the team would be named to the Hall of Fame (well, Christian Laettner made the College Basketball Hall of Fame, but it still counts). They showed what having professional athletes could bring to the Olympics — only amateurs had been permitted to compete previously. It was a show, and boy, did it come through.
Nobody stood a chance, but the games were still fun to watch. Better yet, the opposing fans and even players were glad to be a part of it. The Olympics are all about bringing people from around the globe together, and in 1992, everyone agreed that USA basketball was the star attraction. The actual games were afterthoughts; Team USA won by an average of nearly 44 points per game.
I remember watching from the house my family had by the beach in Ocean City, N.J. Even as a little kid, I could tell this was a big deal. I didn’t know who anybody really was (well, except for Jordan; even newborns knew who he was), but I could tell they were something special. The game would be on, the U.S. would put on its show, everybody would cheer, and I’d want to go out and re-create what I’d just seen.
Nowadays, the world of basketball has caught up with the U.S. Most people feel the best talent comes from the States, but that’s just enough to make LeBron James, Kevin Durant and company the favorites to win the gold. In ’92, there was never much hope for any of the other teams. That phenomenon could never happen again. Other groups may take the moniker of “Dream Team,” but nothing beats the original.
What Olympic moment do you remember most?