Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Would the 2024 USA Basketball Olympic team beat the 1992 ‘Dream Team’?

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With Kawhi Leonard reportedly claiming the final roster spot on this summer’s USA Basketball Olympic team, its 12-man roster looks to be among the most stacked in the history of the event since the NBA finally permitted players to participate, setting up the iconic 1992 “Dream Team.”

The legendary lineup of names set to head to Paris this summer includes both familiar veteran superstars and exciting up-and-comers. A quartet of NBA champions and future Hall of Famers heads the list — LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Leonard. There are First-team All-NBAers who will be asked to contribute in major ways such as Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker and Anthony Davis. Jrue Holiday and Bam Adebayo provide staunch presences on defense, while young players like Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton bring needed energy.

It’s team perhaps without a weakness, and one that looks like one of the best collections of basketball talent ever assembled. But is it good enough to take down that famous 1992 squad, led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who many regard as the best ever? Colin Cowherd thinks not.

“If you took LeBron and Steph off it, and they’ve been in 11 Finals in 13 years, they are clearly the old guard,” Cowherd said Tuesday on “The Herd”, criticizing the squad’s aging headliners. “They have carried this league.”

Cowherd viewed the 2024 group as one that comes up short in the identity department.

“When you go old and new, this is a bit of an indictment on our AAU … Team USA is a lot of guys who I don’t know if they’re in their prime. Jayson Tatum, will you take the big shot? Booker scores, but they were awful in Phoenix before [Durant] and Chris Paul. I think the Dream Team would house these guys.”

First Things First” host Nick Wright had other thoughts.

“Hold on,” Wright scolded. “You can’t say take LeBron and Steph off it. That’s not a thing. Can’t be like ‘hey, take two of the best guys off it’, and let’s not do … revisionist basketball history. [In] 1992 Larry Bird was cooked, he was done. It was not [his] prime, not close. His back had given out. Magic Johnson had already announced his second retirement. Christian Laettner was not in the NBA yet. Chris Mullin was fine. So that’s four guys we can kind of dismiss to begin with. [Charles] Barkley, [Karl] Malone, [Patrick] Ewing, David Robinson, John Stockton — none of them in 1992 had ever been to an NBA Finals. None of them in 1992 had actually been close to an NBA Finals.

Wright said Cowherd was being overly nostalgic about the original “Dream Team,” and he does not have to poke holes in the 2024 squad to give the 1992 team its due.

“If you’re telling me everybody is transported to their apex prime, so you get LeBron from 10 years ago, Steph from three years ago, all of that, that’s a different story — Same with [Magic and Bird on] the Dream Team. But I’m not gonna all of a sudden romanticize. The 1992 Dream Team got enough credit in real time. I don’t think we have to now all of a sudden tear down the 2024 Dream Team to build it up.”

Would the 1992 Dream Team or 2024 team win a game against each other?

From a strictly nominal standpoint, one would be hard-pressed to find rosters as decorated as these two. Each represents the best of several eras, and boasts many Top 75 all-time names.

Hoops fans could only dream of seeing the matchup play out. Obviously, such a battle will be confined to the realm of video games and basketball-themed “Game of Thrones” parodies.

But Cowherd was not willing to concede to Wright on Tuesday.

“You can have Bam Adebayo, I’m gonna take David Robinson,” he told Wright.

Wright would not budge, either.

“That’s fine. You can have Christian Laettner, I’ll take Devin Booker,” he laughed.

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