Dream Team Rumors
Once actually at the Olympics, Lithuania made it to the semifinals. They lost to the United States. Karnisovas was famously so excited to face the likes of Jordan and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird that, while in his jersey, he ended up taking photos of the game from the sideline. “The Other Dream Team” (as nicknamed in the 2012 documentary) was slated for the Bronze Medal Game and had to face off against the former USSR. It was a scrappy duel, and though there was just a one-point differential with six minutes remaining, Lithuania was victorious to win the bronze. There was a six-hour window between when the game was over and when the medal ceremony began and they suddenly had lots of time on their hands to think about their journey. “We were a little bit buzzed,” said Marciulionis with a big laugh, as he remembered partying in the locker rooms with the Australian team.
In discussing his storied playing career, the hosts ask Barkley about his time with the “Dream Team” at the 1992 Olympics. Specifically, how he reacted to coach Chuck Daly telling him that he was the second-best player on the team, behind Michael Jordan. “I said, ‘I agree with you, but I’m going to put an end to that shit next year’,” said Barkley, referring to his run with the Phoenix Suns. “I said, ‘we’re playing them in the finals and I’m going to bring it.’ When I got to Phoenix, I told them on the first day that we’re going to the finals and that I’m sick of everyone telling me that he’s better than me…We got there and they beat us. That was the first time I ever said in my life that there was someone who was better than me at basketball. In my whole life. I had Manute Bol and Shelton Jones, so I thought that those guys weren’t better than me, they just had more help.”
Matt Brennan: So credit to David Stern and the Dream Team for this ’90s heyday of the league. But I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up another factor which is very dear to my heart and played a key role in taking the league to the next level in the 1990s, and that’s television. Don’t get me wrong. Lakers announcer Chick Hearn left us with some terms that are still pretty important if you’ve ever listened to an NBA broadcast, like “slam dunk,” “air ball.” “This game is in the refrigerator,” not as much.
Thomas, for close to a decade, was one of the best 10 players in the NBA. He should have been on the 1992 “Dream Team,” but he was left off for reasons that, to this day, remain murky and are riddled with conspiracies. Thomas’ Detroit teams ruled the NBA with a certain style, one that perfectly embodied the city in which they played. The Pistons weren’t forgiving. They were physically tough, yes. But that’s not all that they were. “We never talked about our physical edge, physical advantage,” Thomas said. “We always came into the game saying we were mentally tougher than the opponent. If you go back and listen to any of our interviews, that’s what we always talked about; our mental stamina, our mental focus. The media talked about the physical toughness, and the players talked about the physical toughness, but we believed that we could take a game plan off the blackboard and execute it for 48 minutes better than any other team in the league.”
“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.”