USA Basketball has announced its preliminary 20-man roster for the 2012 Olympics, and once again, it's quite an impressive list. Among the players with a shot at representing the United States in London are Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard.
We've come a long way since the 2002 World Championships and 2004 Olympics, when the U.S. turned in disappointing performances — finishing sixth and third, respectively — for the first international losses with NBA players. The entire system was overhauled, with former Phoenix Suns executive Jerry Colangelo being named USA Basketball chairman, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski being named coach and prospective players being asked for three-year commitments.
The result was an immediate return to the United States' self-proclaimed rightful place, No. 1, taking gold in the 2008 Olympics and first place in the 2010 World Championships. But few, if any, observers had the nerve to mention "Dream Team."
Until now. Colangelo said the 2012 squad is a fair comparison.
Old-school hoop aficionados bristle whenever "Dream Team" is used unless it's in reference to the original, the U.S. team that won gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. That squad, widely considered the greatest team ever in any sport, featured Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. It also included Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton and a solitary college player, Christian Laettner.
The world was a much different place back then, before the NBA exploded internationally. The surge in popularity from the 1992 team — along with complacency — helped lead to the United States becoming an also-ran. But with renewed focus and commitment, we've proved that we're still the cream of the crop, and a dream — or nightmare — in the eyes of the world.
The headline Tuesday on a blog from the Telegraph, one of London's top newspapers, told you everything you need to know about the U.S. men's hoops squad: "Dream Team will make basketball tournament the centrepiece of London 2012 Olympics."
Despite the American ballers' tendency "to swagger into town a bit," and their habit of staying "in the host city's top six-star hotel rather than the village," the author, veteran journalist Brendan Gallagher, confesses that he's "always had a soft spot for the Dream Team, warts and all … they bring so much to the party and will do again in London. The top players — LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant et al — are among the best athletes in the world, in fact to these eyes they are clearly across the board the most gifted all-round athletes on the planet."