The Dream Team 20 Years Later: Reflecting On Their College CareersPosted by EJacoby on June 13th, 2012
On Wednesday night, NBA TV will air “The Dream Team,” a brand new documentary that relives the 1992 Men’s Basketball USA Olympic Team that’s better known by that same name. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the team, the inspiration behind documenting the players, and their legendary run through the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The national team of 12 players included 11 future Hall of Famers and some of the greatest players in basketball history all in one locker room. The forgotten member of the team is Christian Laettner, the lone collegian at the time to make the squad, who was coming off of one of the greatest NCAA basketball careers of all-time as a two-time National Champion for Duke. Looking back, how did the other 11 players fare in their amateur careers? Was their collective NBA and international success predicated by dominance in college? On the day the documentary airs, we reflect on the Dream Team from a college perspective.
As it turns out, the team wasn’t just a collection of all-time great professionals. Exactly half the players on the roster also qualify as some of the greatest collegiate players ever. Six players on the Dream Team were included on ESPN’s list of the 25 greatest players in college basketball history, the highest of whom was Larry Bird at #9. Bird averaged 30.3 points per game in his career at Indiana State, and in his senior National Player of the Year season he led the Sycamores to a 33-1 record and a loss in the National Title game to Michigan State and Magic Johnson. Johnson is another one of the greatest collegians on the list (#15), averaging 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game in two seasons for the Spartans that became a preview of the stat-sheet stuffing machine he would become in the NBA.
David Robinson (#24), Michael Jordan (#13), and Patrick Ewing (#16) all cracked ESPN’s list of greatest players alongside Laettner (#12) and the others. Robinson balanced his military commitments at the Naval Academy with a dominant career on the court as a Wooden and Naismith Award winner in 1987. Jordan was a First Team All-American in his final two years as a Tar Heel, but before that he hit the game-winning shot in the 1982 National Championship as a freshman over Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas. Ewing led Georgetown to the title two years later in 1984, and lost the season after that in the championship game to Villanova. With three National Title game appearances and a Naismith Player of the Year award as a senior in 1985, Ewing is one of the most decorated players in the history of the game.
Other Dream Teamers were also star players for their respective schools and put together collegiate resumes that could be argued as honorable mentions to ESPN’s list. Clyde Drexler was a First Team All-American for Houston’s “Phi Slama Jama” team that reached consecutive Final Fours in 1982 and 1983 (losing in the Final Four and the Championship Game). Chris Mullin was a three-time Big East Player of the Year and 1985 Wooden Award winner for St. John’s with a Final Four appearance that year as well. Charles Barkley was a Second Team All-American and SEC Player of the Year at Auburn in 1984. Scottie Pippen (Central Arkansas), John Stockton (Gonzaga), and Karl Malone (Louisiana Tech) all excelled for mid-major schools and are today considered among the greatest players in their respective schools’ histories.
Any way you break it down, the Dream Team players were superstars in college, the NBA, and as international competitors. Tune in on Wednesday night at 9 PM ET to catch the documentary that follows the team’s spectacle in Barcelona, as all 12 players agreed to participate through interviews and reflections. The guys received rock star treatment and stole the show at the 1992 Olympics while defeating opponents by an average of 44 points on way to the gold medal. They were all legends in their own right as collegians too, which makes this roster the most complete set of basketball players ever put together.
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him on Twitter @evanjacoby.