Could 2012 Team USA Basketball Beat the 1992 Dream Team?
By Tim White, Fri, July 13, 2012
Kobe Bryant demands respect.
You may hate him for a wide variety of reasons, and you most likely will disagree with him on his stance regarding Team USA Basketball 2012, but you have to respect the confidence he has in his game — and his team.
As the elder statesman, and leader of the '12 team headed to London, Bryant sparked a seemingly undebatable debate when he responded to a question regarding a matchup of Team USA Basketball 2012 versus Team USA Basketball 1992 — you know, the one and only "Dream Team."
Rather than evade the question, or just profuse compliments to his forefathers, Bryant truthfully responded to this question, "How do you guys think you would do against them — I'm sure you've heard that before — with the team you have right now?"
The topic is nothing new — even the interviewer felt obliged to recognize the jaded subject. I remember similar questions, and the debate that followed, when the national media anointed Team USA Basketball 2008 as the "Redeem Team."
The wordplay was cute and dandy, but the message was clear — the '08 team needed to return USA Basketball to the dominant standard set by the Dream Team. Forget about the fact that the world had caught up in terms of basketball skills and awareness, everyone wanted to see if Kobe and LeBron could deliver the gold on a higher level. It was clear that the national media regarded the '08 team as inferior, especially with the word "Redeem" headlining the team. Redeem implied a need to recapture the standard of yesteryear while atoning for past failure. With the Dream Team as the standard of excellence, "Redeem" explicitly implied an inferiority to the far greater concept of "Dream."
Despite the inferior label, many debated whether the '08 team was actually better than the Dream Team. After the '08 squad dominated the competition by winning by an average of 27.88 points per game en route to a gold medal over Spain (a team featuring six NBA players), the debate continued. 27.88 is nowhere near the 43.8 point differential per game served by the '92 team, but the '92 team only faced three NBA caliber players the entire tournament — Arvydas Sabonis of Lithuania in the semi-finals, and Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc of Croatia in the final round.
The world has caught up, and such point differential arguments shouldn't hold credence in a debate regarding who would win in a matchup of either Olympic squad. Would the Dream Team defeat today's international competition by over 40 points a game? Bryant and company lived up to the backhanded compliment of "Redeem Team," but it seems that Bryant hasn't forgotten the slight.
After discussing the global impact of the Dream Team, a slight smile came across Bryant's face as he pondered the question for a second. Bryant bought time with a drawn out "Umm," and then he continued, "Well just from a basketball standpoint, they obviously have a lot more size than we do. Ugh, with Robinson, Ewing, and Malone and those guys." After rattling off the bigs with a conceding tone, Bryant changed gears and unveiled his true sentiment. Bryant continued, "Some of those wing players were also a lot older, at kind of the end of their careers, where we have a bunch of young racehorses, you know, guys that are eager to compete. So, umm, I don't know, I don't know, it would be a tough one, but I think we'd pull it out." As he closed up his statement, Bryant gave an affirmative head nod as he went into his final thought. Bryant nodded as he said "but," then he paused for a full second before letting a slight smile stretch across his face as he gave his final touch, "I think we'd pull it out."
In 28 seconds, Bryant sparked a national debate that many regard as blasphemous. The Dream Team is considered almost unanimously as the greatest basketball team ever put together. Headlined by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, the Dream Team brought basketball to new heights all around the globe. Bryant certainly understands that no team will ever carry the global impact of the Dream Team, but he certainly holds no reservations in regards to who would actually win a game between the two squads. Despite failing to field the strongest team possible, with guys like Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Derek Rose, Chris Bosh, and possibly Blake Griffin, out due to injury, Bryant still believes that the '12 team would defeat the '92 team in a single exhibition. Such confidence points to the rapidly evolving nature of basketball throughout the past 20 years.
Let's run down the teams. The Dream Team starting five features Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing. They are flanked by John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Karl Malone, David Robinson, and Christian Laettner. The 2012 starting five will most likely feature Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Tyson Chandler. Those guys are flanked by Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony (potential starter over Durant), Kevin Love, and Blake Griffin/Anthony Davis. Everyone on the Dream Team, except for Laettner — the greatest college player at the time, and a representation of USA amateur athletics that had previously constituted the makeup of the team — has been enshrined into the Hall of Fame, including three of the four coaches, and the team as a whole. Obviously, the name power of the Dream Team is unbelievable, but a closer look unveils some interesting matchups and problems they could have with the '12 team.
Let's get to some of Bryant's points. First he mentioned, and ultimately conceded, size. The Dream Team seems to have an advantage in the paint. Boasting Ewing and Robinson as anchors in the middle — and potential twin towers — along with Malone and Barkley as bruising forwards, you would think the Dream Team would dominate the paint. However, if the Heat taught us anything this past year, it's that sheer size if far less dominant when you have freak of nature athletes like James who can cover every single position on the court. Length can count just as much as size, and the '12 team boasts plenty of length, and athleticism, to counter the size of the '92 team.
Although the '12 squad boasts only one true center, Chandler, I don't think that the bigger '92 squad has that great of an advantage down low. Chandler is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and I believe that he can contain either Ewing or Robinson with strong man to man defense. Chandler's only duties on the team are to play defense and rebound — his greatest attributes. Chandler will only score on dunks and putbacks, but that is all that is needed of him. Ewing and Robinson are prolific talents, but it is likely that only one of them will be on the court at a time. If the '92 team goes big with a twin tower lineup, the '12 team can punish them by stretching the court with four different options at the power forward position — Love, Durant, James, or Anthony. Each can step out to the three point line and create a huge mismatch with either Robinson or Ewing defending — especially by utilizing dribble penetration and long distance shooting. Because of his greater versatility and agility, Robinson must draw the shorter straw and line up against one of the '12 power forwards. Robinson poses a significant disadvantage for the '92 squad in terms of offensive spacing and man to man defense in a twin tower lineup. Robinson and Ewing can get buckets down low, but one of them will always be asked to play out of position on the defensive end, and neither has even the slightest chance of giving Love, Durant, James, or Anthony any problems.
Do you think the size of Ewing and Robinson is that advantageous against a tandem of Chandler and either Love, James, Anthony, Griffin/Davis, or Durant? Each '12 forward has a wingspan long enough to actually contest any shot Robinson takes. Factor in the speed and athleticism of each, and I'd say that the '92 team would be reluctant to trot out a twin tower lineup. In fact, Love is barely an inch shorter than Robinson, yet he outweighs him by over 30 pounds. I don't think that a tandem of Chandler and Love will have a significant disadvantage grabbing rebounds and playing defense against the twin towers. Well, Love will struggle defensively against Robinson, but he can at least bang bodies in the paint, and he can atone for his defensive lapses with a vast offensive arsenal. Robinson can abuse each option, outside of Chandler, in the post, but will he be on the floor if he has to step out to the three point line and matchup with someone like James or Durant? I doubt it. The biggest problem for the '12 team arises when Chandler needs a breather — then a giant like Ewing or Robinson can truly do some damage — however, if Chandler provides big minutes, the size advantage for the '92 team lessens dramatically.
Overall, the size advantage of the Dream Team can be quelled with matchups and tempo. If the '92 team consistently plays only one center at a time, their size advantage disappears because Chandler can reliably matchup with any center opposite him. Obviously, the eight minutes or so that Chandler needs a breather will be troublesome for the '12 team, but the '12 team can promptly go with a small ball lineup and force the '92 team to matchup in that manner. If the '12 team consistently pushes the ball and increases the tempo of the game, the bigs lose considerable impact. Overall, the '92 team carries an advantage at the center position, but it's by no means dominant, and a twin tower lineup isn't necessarily beneficial. The '92 team can definitely grind out a win by pounding the ball inside on every possession, but are they be disciplined enough to do so? I'm sure Johnson would feed the post, but with a guy like Jordan on the perimeter, I doubt that the post would be the focal point of the offense. Plus, would Johnson even be on the court?
With Chandler anchoring the middle, the next big man battle comes down to the power forward position. Barkley led the '92 squad with 18.0 points per game throughout the Olympics, and he carried that greatness into '93 by winning MVP and leading the Suns to the Finals against Jordan. With Barkley and Malone playing "grown man ball," who can step up for the '12 team? Once again, the '12 team has five options — Love, James, Anthony, Durant, or Griffin/Davis. Love certainly has the size and weight to battle either, but he will struggle with the athleticism and relentless grind of Barkley and Malone. Griffin boasts the most favorable frame for the matchup, but he is too limited both offensively and defensively — Griffin would be eaten alive by Barkley or Malone. Griffin also just twisted his knee, making the possibility of Davis on the squad realistic.
Davis would obviously serve as the Laettner of the group and garner no playing time in a game between the two squads. James and Anthony boast frames and athleticism that can manage either Barkley or Malone defensively, but each has to completely buy in and give 100%. James has proven that he can undertake such a task — evidenced by his efforts throughout the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Anthony hasn't shown much on the defensive end, but he does sport a body and athleticism that can match up with either player. James and Anthony should excel offensively against either option. Durant would definitely struggle defensively due to his slight frame, but he can respond by lighting up Barkley and Malone with his offensive prowess. Overall, the '12 team has four realistic options to continually throw at Barkley and Malone — Love, James, Anthony, and Durant.
Defensively, the '12 team will struggle with the power forward matchup, but once again, the '12 team can counter with athleticism, speed, and a spread offense to counteract such defensive woes. The power forward matchup seems to be a wash. Barkley and Malone win the battle inside the paint, whether rebounding or scoring, but the '12 squad can counter with four viable options to bring inside/outside scoring, dribble penetration, and opportunities in transition. The versatility of the position for the '12 squad offers a strong counter to the forceful skill sets of Barkley and Malone. Style of play makes this matchup one of the most intriguing due to such contrasting skill sets.
The next matchup to examine is small forward. The '92 team can use Bird, Pippen, Jordan, or Mullin. The '12 team can use a litany of options — James, Durant, Anthony, Love, Bryant, or Iguodala. Suffering from a wrecked back, Bird retired at the age of 35 shortly after the '92 Olympics. It's safe to say that Bird would be useless in any of these matchups. Bird can spread the court with deadeye shooting and excellent ball movement, but he is an extreme liability defensively in each of these matchups. The same goes for Mullin. Mullin can put points on the board due to his excellent jumpshot, but, like Bird, he severely pales in athleticism, and would essentially serve as a gateway to the basket. With Bird and Mullin likely out of the picture, and Jordan almost guaranteed to play on the opposite wing, the '12 team can throw fresh bodies at Pippen the entire game until he wears down.
Pippen will have to play a full 48 minutes with breakneck tenacity in order to keep up with the likes of James, Durant, Anthony, and Bryant. As great as Pippen is, do you think he can shutdown a fresh rotation of James, Durant, Anthony, and Bryant? That's a tall task, even for an elite defensive talent such as Pippen. Pippen can play outstanding defense on each guy, but doing so for 48 minutes against four of the most impressive offensive players to ever play the game is unrealistic. Imagine Pippen having to matchup with James, then against a fresh Anthony off the bench, then a couple of minutes against Bryant or Durant, and once again against a fresh James. If Pippen ever needs a breather, the '92 team is in a world of hurt — similar to Chandler at the center position for the '12 team. With greater depth, the '12 team boasts a superior advantage at the small forward position.
The most notable matchups climax at shooting guard. The '92 team features Jordan, Drexler, and Mullin. The '12 team can utilize, Bryant, James, Durant, Harden, Iguodala, Westbrook, or Williams. Once again, depth favors the '12 team. However, depth doesn't matter as much in this matchup — Jordan can play all game long, and if he needs a breather, Drexler can do just fine in spot duty. Mullin probably isn't an option, and if he is, he'd get worked. Obviously, the matchup everyone wants to see comes down to Jordan versus Bryant. At 33 years old, Bryant will struggle to defend the 29 year old Jordan. Coming off of consecutive championships, Jordan was in the absolute prime of his career heading into the '92 Olympics. Bryant can counteract Jordan with an offensive outburst, but he would have to play stellar basketball. Unless Bryant gets into a zone similar to his 81 point game, or his 62 points in three quarters, Jordan possesses a sizable advantage.
However, after trading punches with Bryant, how would Jordan fare if James matched up on him? Such great depth allows for such a possibility. James is younger, bigger, stronger, and faster than Jordan. After engaging in a battle with Bryant, it could prove difficult for Jordan to then turn around and battle James. Jordan would certainly let Pippen guard James, however, what if James specifically matched up to defend Jordan as Bryant switched onto Pippen? Pippen doesn't pose as an overwhelming threat on the offensive end, and James certainly has the necessary tools to make things difficult for Jordan. The '12 team probably needs to use James at the forward position, thus curbing his impact defensively on Jordan, but the possibility remains. One underrated matchup is Westbrook versus Jordan. Westbrook seems to have a Gary Payton like fire, and it would be a treat to see how he would attack Jordan both offensively and defensively. Overall, the shooting guard matchup will most likely feature Jordan versus Bryant, with some sprinkles of James, Durant, Westbrook, Iguodala, and Harden, but the edge goes still goes to Jordan. However, such an edge is not as immense as the edge Jordan had over the competition at shooting guard up to the Dream Team period. Due to such great depth, the '12 team can throw a couple of different options at Jordan in an attempt to wear him down and ultimately sap the energy he certainly needs in order to carry the '92 team offensively.
The final battle comes down to the point guards. The '92 team features Johnson and Stockton — that's it. Jordan can run some point, but he is far more useful as a finisher. The '12 team can use Paul, Williams, Westbrook, and James. The point guard matchup likely serves as the greatest advantage the '12 team has over the '92 team. Johnson and Stockton will each struggle on the defensive end against the speed and athleticism of the '12 point guards. At 32 years of age, and a year out of the league due to an abrupt retirement, Johnson doesn't look to fare well against Paul, Westbrook, and Williams — or the 2.0 version of himself, James. Standing 6'9", Johnson will absolutely get destroyed by the foot speed of Paul, Williams, Westbrook, and James — especially in transition.
There is no way Johnson can bend over to defend the minute Paul, or keep up with the explosive Westbrook. Johnson would have to defend a slower player, thus sliding every matchup down a rung. Johnson can realistically successfully defend just three guys on the entire '12 roster — Love, Chandler, and Davis, and even Love is a stretch. Johnson obviously possesses a genius level understanding of the game, but theory and practice contain far different possibilities and realities.
Johnson will always be regarded as the greatest point guard ever, however, in this matchup, he is overmatched. Johnson will have no problem running the show offensively, but he is a liability every time on the defensive end of the court. Maybe he can control the tempo of the game and distribute the ball to all the right places, but I just can't imagine him being too successful — especially if James matches up on him. Johnson's only substitute, Stockton, will suffer the same fate. Stockton will struggle to keep any '12 point guard in front of him on the defensive end. Each '12 point guard can run an isolation and score rather easily on him. Imagine Stockton lining up against the uber athletic Westbrook — it just isn't fair, Westbrook can blow by him and attack the basket on every single possession. Johnson and Stockton both serve as significant defensive liabilities that can be exposed by pick and roll switches and a severe lack of athleticism.
Unlike Johnson, Stockton can possibly struggle to run the show offensively. Imagine if Westbrook presses Stockton full court — Stockton certainly has a great handle, but relentless hounding from a superior athlete would surely prove a strenuous obstacle. Stockton will obviously run the pick and roll to perfection with Malone, but a hard trap from a tandem like Westbrook and James could be pretty difficult to step through or turn the corner on. The '92 team will desperately miss the services of Isiah Thomas — directly left off the team at Jordan's request — against the '12 team. Thomas would have given the '92 team a perfect matchup against a guy like Paul, and a more manageable matchup against guys like Westbrook and Williams, but a beef with Jordan cost him a roster spot. Overall, Johnson and Stockton will struggle mightily against Paul, Williams, Westbrook, and James. Stockton will struggle to give much of anything against far superior athletes, leaving Johnson to run the show for a majority of the game. An '88 Johnson would have abused the '12 point guards, but a '92 Johnson — a year removed from the NBA — is definitely at a disadvantage. Overall, the speed and athleticism of the '12 point guards carries a significant advantage over the slow, plodding, mismatched '92 point guards.
So with the matchups decided, who has the advantage? The '92 team holds advantages at center and shooting guard; whereas the '12 team holds advantages at small forward and point guard. Due to styles of play, the power forward position looks to be a wash — with '92 winning inside, but '12 winning from the outside. So the advantages, position wise, are stuck at 2-2. With Jordan on the Dream Team, the '92 team has the best player on the court. However, the '12 team has a more versatile lineup that can create the most amount of advantageous mismatches.
Overall, I'm going to side with versatility and superior athleticism, therefore Team USA Basketball 2012. The '12 team can counter every single move that the '92 team makes, whereas the '92 team cannot counter every move the '12 team makes. If the '92 squad goes big, the '12 team can utilize a big enough lineup that is much more athletic and versatile. If the '92 squad goes with a traditional lineup, a traditional lineup of the '12 squad can match up just fine. If the '92 squad goes small, the '12 team can employ a faster team with greater size and versatility. The best lineup for the '92 squad is most likely Johnson, Jordan, Pippen, Barkley, and Robinson. The best lineup for the '12 squad is Paul, Bryant, Durant, James, and Chandler. The best lineup from '92 is a bit more formidable than the best lineup of '12, however once substitutions are taken into hand, the '12 team can do so much more. The '92 team will definitely struggle to counter the various matchups that the '12 team can throw at them.
Overall, the superior athleticism and versatility of the '12 team is just too much for the Dream Team to handle. The collection of individual players on the '12 team may not be as individually great as the Dream Team, but the entire whole is far greater in terms of versatility and what can be done on the court.
Despite my opinion, and Bryant's, many disagree with even mentioning the two squads together in the same sentence. Following Bryant's remarks, Barkley promptly responded in an interview, "Them point guards weren't going to beat us, I mean that's a no brainer. Listen, other than Kobe, LeBron, and Kevin Durant, I don't think anybody else on that team makes our team." Jordan followed the next day with, "I'd like to think that we had 11 Hall of Famers on that team, and whenever they get 11 Hall of Famers, you call and ask me who had the better Dream Team. Remember now, they learned from us. We didn't learn from them."
Barkley and Jordan have great points, but their points remain stuck in the past. Nearly every single member of the Dream Team has long been retired, and deservedly enshrined in the Hall of Fame. That fact can't be disputed. Stats and accomplishments really can't be compared, because the Dream Team wins in a landslide. History is obviously on their side. Using history, Barkley and Jordan dismiss the dangerous aspects of the '12 team. Barkley may be right about only three players from the '12 team even deserving to make the '92 team, but he can't honestly deny the fact that Paul, Westbrook, and Williams would give the '92 team fits.
Jordan also hides behind history. Unwilling to relinquish his hold upon the greatest team of all time, Jordan brings up the Hall of Fame argument. Jordan fails to recognize that skills continually evolve. Yes, Jordan paved the blueprint, but now guys like James and Durant are running off with that blueprint and adding new wrinkles. In a matchup of the two squads, the '92 team has just two advantageous matchups. Jordan obviously poses the greatest threat on the '92 squad, but a roundtable defensive rotation of Bryant, James, Durant, Iguodala, and Westbrook can likely wear him down. Then either Ewing or Robinson serve as the greatest threat, but likely just one at a time. Chandler is a defensive stud and he can play either center without significant help.
When stacking the possible lineups side by side, the greater advantages clearly point to the '12 squad. How can the Dream Team stop this lineup — Westbrook, Bryant, Durant, Anthony, James, along with a rotation of Paul, Williams, Harden, Iguodala, and Love? The '12 squad can completely force the big men out of the game and turn the game into small ball for the entire matchup. A reasonable athletic counter for the '92 team would probably feature Drexler, Jordan, Pippen, Barkley, and Robinson. Pippen can guard either Durant or James, but that leaves Robinson on the opposite — not good. Westbrook wins his matchup with Drexler — both love to put their heads down and just attack the basket. Jordan outscores Bryant to win his matchup. Durant would have to work hard for his shots, but he has far greater odds of being a game changer than Pippen does. Pippen likely fulfills his defensive stopper role, but the impact of limiting one scorer on the '12 team isn't nearly as great as the potential possibility of Durant pouring in buckets. Pippen and Durant come to a wash, but Durant has a significant opportunity to light up the score board whereas Pippen doesn't. Barkley and Anthony each provide a significant offensive show. Both are amazing talents offensively, but lack defensive reputations. Barkley and Anthony score buckets, but they also give up buckets rather easily.
Then comes James and Robinson. James obviously destroys Robinson offensively, but he will struggle defensively in man to man situations. However, plenty of help can come James' way — following the '92 season Drexler was a career 29.3% three point shooter, followed by Jordan at 28.4%, Pippen at 25.0%, and Barkley at 24%. Barkley will primarily reside within the midrange, but Pippen, Jordan, and Drexler can all be left out on the perimeter in order to double Robinson hard. Pippen, Jordan, and Drexler can also be switched onto by every single player on the court — except for Westbrook on Pippen. With Robinson consistently doubled, the '12 team must scramble defensively, but they have the athletes necessary to successfully utilize such a lineup and tempo. With Jordan as the only significant advantage for this '92 lineup, the '12 lineup poses greater options for success.
Even further, if Robinson tires, the '92 team will face a significant disadvantage against the aforementioned lineup. Imagine, Johnson, Bird, Mullin, Stockton, Laettner, or Ewing stepping onto the court against such a lineup. Each significantly pales in athleticism on the court. They may have big names, but can any of them pose as a dual threat on the court against the likes of Westbrook, Bryant, Durant, Anthony, and James? After abruptly retiring shortly before the '92 season, Johnson didn't play another NBA game until '95 — unless you count the '92 All-Star Game. Bird retired shortly after the '92 Olympics. Mullin struggled to defend players in his own era, imagine him guarding Bryant, Durant, Anthony, or James. Stockton has no place on the court against an intimidating athletic force like Westbrook. Stockton could matchup with Paul, but Paul would still carry a sizable advantage. Laettner isn't even a consideration.
That leaves the '92 squad with just one serviceable substitute for the aforementioned '12 lineup — Malone. Malone can step in for Robinson in a small ball set, but he would just screw up the matchups and place the '92 squad at a further disadvantage. Imagine Westbrook, Bryant, Durant, Anthony, and James versus Drexler, Jordan, Barkley, Malone, and Pippen. Barkley and Malone each match up better with Anthony, but only one would get the opportunity, and neither can even remotely defend Durant or James. Since Pippen must defend either James or Durant, either James or Durant pose a far greater threat against Barkley or Malone than the one Jordan has on Bryant.
Simply put, Team USA Basketball 2012 has greater mismatches to expose against the Dream Team. The '12 guys may not be able to take roster spots away from the 92' squad, or fulfill career greatness like nearly everyone associated with the Dream Team, but the '12 squad can utilize a multitude of mismatches. Paul, Westbrook, Williams, Durant, James, and Anthony each pose significant mismatches for the '92 squad to defend. Utilizing greater roster flexibility, the '12 squad can expose huge holes in nearly every '92 lineup. Jordan can potentially dominate the entire game and pull the '92 squad along with him, however, that task would certainly be arduous considering the multitude of capable bodies able to match up with him.
On the other hand, the '12 squad has numerous guys that can't be guarded by the man that will ultimately be on them. Pippen and Jordan can guard every perimeter player on the '12 squad, but the '12 squad will always have a third or fourth proficient perimeter option on the floor that can't be guarded. If Johnson and Bird were in their primes, the Dream Team would undoubtedly defeat the '12 team with ease. However, such primes were considerably absent by 1992. Bryant mentioned their age in order to dispel the mystification of the Dream Team. When you hear Jordan, Johnson, Bird, the trio conjures up ideals of greatness and an aura of invincibility. By peeling away the names associated with the act, Bryant identified weaknesses in the Dream Team that he and his teammates could undoubtedly capitalize upon.
Although Bryant is the ultimate competitor, I find it surprising that he made such a bold statement. Rarely has he challenged the greats of the game in public discourse. As the eldest member of the '12 squad, maybe Bryant is beginning to enjoy his status as a grizzled veteran. Sixteen years in, Bryant felt completely comfortable stating his opinion that Team USA Basketball 2012 could defeat the vaunted Dream Team. The following day, Bryant didn't back down from his remarks. Despite Jordan offering this jab, "I imagine he's trying to say it to legitimize his own Dream Team," Bryant stated, "I'm not really tripping. The fact is they've got Ewing and Robinson, those big guys. I mean it's tough. But if you're asking me if we can beat them one game, hell yeah we can beat them one game. You didn't ask me if we could beat them in a seven game series. One game, we could get them, no question about it."
Maybe Bryant did back down a little by bringing up the one game argument, but the original question is "How do you guys think you would do against them with the team you have right now?" To me, the question implies a single game, like a one time Olympic team showdown. Others may interpret "right now" as a signifier for the first of many, but I believe that "right now" refers to a sort of pickup style scrimmage. Bryant seems to feel the same way, and he is fully confident in his ability to win at least one game against the Dream Team.
I think this may represent the first time that Bryant has publicly stated that one of his teams could defeat a team led by Jordan. In a round way, maybe his statements are a good thing. With the entire world watching Team USA Basketball, maybe Bryant's words will spur the '12 team to grandiose heights. Imagine if the '12 team decimates the competition by over 40 points a game? Would such a feat change the way everyone felt about Bryant's words? Obviously, the '12 team hasn't accomplished a single thing yet, but I sure do like the confidence Bryant has entering the Olympics.
Whatever your stance is regarding the subject, we can all agree that the matchup would be an amazing event. The endless speculation makes it all fun, and no one can ever be right because the game will never take place. Just in case you have some inclination regarding who would win, ESPN Next Level simulated 10,000 computer matchups between the 1992 Dream Team and the 2012 Team USA squad. ESPN Next Level projected that the '92 squad would win 53.1% of the time while averaging 78.3 points per game, whereas, the '12 squad won 46.9% of the time and averaged 77.3 points per game. Despite the close ESPN Next Level numbers, specifically the one point game differential, Station Casinos considers the '92 squad an eight point favorite. Eight points seem rather high, but it's still within three possessions.
Although Barkley and Jordan laughed off Bryant's statement, it seems rather evident that the possibility of the '12 team defeating the Dream Team is at least up for discussion. With the '12 team possibly serving as the final USA squad utilizing pros over the age of 23, such a discussion may never come up again. We might as well soak it all in while we can.