Dream Team Rumors
“I’m rooting for Coach Popovich and the U.S. Team,’’ Ewing told The Post in an emailed interview. “It’s an unfortunate time we’re living in right now — losing players to COVID-19 protocols. It’s harder to play now because of the Dream Team. All of the current players grew up looking up to us and watching us dominate the rest of the world. But the rest of the world caught up. “There are so many talented players. Some of the NBA’s top players today come from all over the world. It wasn’t like that back then.’’
The exhibition game between the Dream Team and a group of college studs ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics has been heavily documented. Mashburn, who starred for Kentucky at that time, was part of the young crew of challengers hoping to give Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, etc. a competitive workout. But even before they stepped on the floor, words were already exchanged between Bird and Mashburn’s teammate, the late Rodney Rogers (via The Players’ Tribune). “We checked in at the Marriot go up to our floor and we’re walking in the corridor, and we see this tall white guy coming out the hall, ‘Man, that’s Larry Bird.’ He walked by us and he says, ‘Y’all those college guys?’ And we was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ And he looked at us and he said, ‘Get some f****** rest, it’s gonna be a long week’ and walked off.”
All-Star weekend? That was Welts’s idea. The original Dream Team? Welts marketed it. The WNBA? Welts helped launch it. The game’s global influence? Welts had a hand there, too, before lending his leadership to the Suns (during the seven-seconds-or-less era) and for the last 10 years, the light-years-ahead Warriors. “He’ll go down as—he already is—one of the most influential sports executives of the last five decades,” Silver told Sports Illustrated. “He transformed this league.”
In February of ’92, just three months after announcing his retirement, Johnson cleared a bigger physical and psychological hurdle, playing for the Western Conference in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. That appearance was one of the first major counters to the concerns – and, frankly, the prejudices – that many people living with HIV had faced from others. There was Magic Johnson, HIV-positive, still doing what he’d done as well as anyone who’d ever played the game. But it had been a long and difficult road to get there. “There was a question if, after his announcement, forget about the All-Star Game,” Johnson’s longtime agent, Lon Rosen, said last week. “If he was going to be able to play in the Olympics, number one, was he going to be alive? Number two, was he going to be healthy? And number three, if he was healthy, would other teams play against him? If you recall, in 1991, some people didn’t want to be in the same room as him. It was COVID to another degree.”
“I’m on vacation with Earvin, we’re in Hawaii, the results come in and he’s leading,” Rosen said. “So I speak with Russ Granik. Russ says, ‘Well, David’s going to let him play, but he’s not going to let him start.’ I say, ‘Hey, Russ, I’m telling you this – if David doesn’t let him start, he ain’t playing.’ Earvin was like, ‘Hell no, I want to start.’ To be true, David had a lot to deal with. There (were) players who were uncomfortable playing against him. … And I can say this, you know, what is it, 30 years since then – they weren’t wrong. It’s unfair. Because, you know what? You didn’t know much about it. It’s a much different disease now. But it was still hurtful. And Stern called me, he called with the old, ‘you m———–.’ He m———– me. It was fine.” But, eventually, Stern relented. Not only would the NBA honor the final fan vote – Johnson’s 658,211 votes were second only to Drexler’s 759,550 among Western Conference guards – it enthusiastically backed Johnson’s appearance in the All-Star Game.
Why was the decision made to really elevate Steve Kerr especially with respect to the 1998 playoffs? He was always a role player. Meanwhile, Toni Kukoc kept them alive in Game 7 versus Indiana. Jason Hehir:We needed to find places within the doc to tell individual backstories. Toni’s was in Episode 5 when he faced the Dream Team. Steve’s was in Episode 9 when he hit his famous ’97 Finals shot. Hardcore NBA/Bulls fans couldn’t be our target audience, but unfortunately they’re our biggest critics because they wanted this largely to be about on-court events. We had to keep in mind that our audience is also the 20-year -old kid from France who barely knows what basketball even is. The amount of positive response we’ve gotten from countries that aren’t basetkball-crazy tells me we struck the right balance. I hope so, anyway.
ESPN’s recently aired documentary series “The Last Dance,” chronicling Michael Jordan’s final championship season with the Chicago Bulls, rekindled interest in Jordan’s long-running feud with Isiah Thomas, including how the Pistons’ star was left off the 1992 Dream Team that won Olympic gold in Barcelona. Author Jack McCallum addressed the controversy in the most recent episode of his “The Dream Team Tapes” podcast series. McCallum said Jordan brought up the issue of Thomas himself in a 2011 interview. “When they called me and asked me to play — Rod Thorn called me. I said ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.’ He assured me. He said, ‘Chuck doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team,’” Jordan said on the recording that McCallum played during the podcast.