It was quite simply the greatest basketball team ever assembled. Twenty-eight years ago this summer, the United States Men’s Olympic basketball team headed to Barcelona where it conquered the world. The Dream Team, as it would come to be known, did so rather easily.
After the 1988 Olympic team failed to win a gold medal, a rules change allowed NBA players to be eligible for Olympic play. The U.S. put together a team of All-Stars coached by Chuck Daly that could have beaten anyone. Any time. Any place.
The first ten players selected to the team are some of the NBA’s all-time greats: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, David Robinson, and Charles Barkley. All were either at or near the peaks of their professional careers.
Clyde Drexler earned the final professional spot on the roster and, as an acknowledgement to the previous amateur Olympic system, the U.S. selected Christian Laettner of Duke to be the team’s college representative.
The Dream Team played eight games in the 1992 Summer Olympic tournament. They won those eight games by an average margin on 43.8 points per game. The team’s smallest margin of victory came in the gold medal final when Team USA beat Croatia 117-85.
To prepare for the Olympics, the Dream Team played in the Tournament of the Americas. In the opening game of the tournament, Team USA beat Cuba 136-57. The U.S. won its six games by an average – an average! – of 51.5 points a game.
Looking back on that ’92 team, it featured eight of the top 50 scorers in the history of the NBA (Malone, Jordan, Ewing, Barkley, Drexler, Bird, Robinson, and Stockton).
The Dream Team roster featured a collective 16 NBA MVPs. Jordan was the leader with six. Magic and Bird each won three MVPs and Malone won the award twice. Barkley and Robinson each won an MVP once.
That roster also combined for 23 NBA championships. Jordan and Pippen won six with the Bulls. Magic won five with the Lakers and Bird totaled three in Boston. Robinson and the Spurs won the NBA title twice and Drexler captured one with Houston.
All 11 of the professional players on the 1992 Dream Team are individual members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2010, the Dream Team was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the “greatest collection of basketball talent on the planet.”