By Steve Silverman
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There is no need to feel insulted. Kobe Bryant did not demean the memory of the Dream Team.
However, he was just a tad bored when he was asked about his recollections of the Dream Team and that group’s impact on the game of basketball. Why shouldn’t fatigue set in after being asked that question for the 500th time?
But after paying homage and repeating the palaver about “global impact” that the NBA Network’s special on the 1992 team put forth, he let the world know that from a basketball perspective, the 2012 team could hold its own against the Dream Team.
He said that the Dream Team might have an advantage in size and strength thanks to Patrick Ewing and David Robinson in the middle, but that the 2012 team featured “young greyhounds” on the wing who would outsprint the “older players” on the Dream Team.
Bryant was then bold enough to say that the current Olympic team would beat the legends who preceded them by 20 years.
Bryant’s remarks may have been fueled by a desire to get the sporting press to stop living in the past and honoring the memorable team that came before them. He knows that while the 2012 team is probably two or three times better than any of the teams it will face in competition, there is a chance that the USA team could go through the motions in London and not play at its best.
Bryant knows that this team will be compared with the one that has been so celebrated. There is no way it can top what that team did in Barcelona. Even if this team puts together a string of 40-point wins, the older team has a 20-year head start.
But he has now put a challenge out there to his teammates. He has let LeBron James and Kevin Durant know that they are competing against history whether they like it or not. That may not be what these players signed up for, but Bryant realized that their reputations would be challenged by a team that played two decades ago.
Bryant is not about finishing in second place. He doesn’t care that the other team had Michael Jordan in his prime, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. He’s not going to accept second place.
He certainly was not going to accept having teammates that were going to London just to enjoy Big Ben.
He is demanding the best from every player on the team and that they have to face up to the challenge of the ghosts who made their mark in Barcelona. This will not be a vacation.
Bryant may not be correct in his final assessment, but the 2012 team does seem to have athleticism on its side at point guard and small forward. Johnson and John Stockton would be pushed to the limit by Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and Chris Paul.
The aging Bird had a bad back in ’92 and he was never the same player again. Scottie Pippen was a great player at the top of his game, but those two would have been overwhelmed by James, Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
That’s where the advantages end for the current team. The shooting guard position goes to the ’92 team because of the presence of Jordan. He also had Clyde Drexler helping him and they would have taken a unanimous decision over Bryant and the overmatched James Harden.
At the power forward slot, Barkley and Malone would simply have been too mean and nasty for Blake Griffin and Kevin Love. On the surface, it’s like sending the two toughest guys in school to welcome the two “new” guys. Griffin and Love have the athleticism, but they would have taken too many elbows in the face to play at their best.
Finally, the 2012 team has nothing in the middle. Tyson Chandler is a decent player who can defend and rebound, but he would have no business getting out on the court against the likes of Ewing and Robinson.
The 1992 team would have the advantage and would seemingly be a solid favorite. But don’t get mad at Bryant. By making his statement, he has challenged his teammates to play their best game while competing in the Olympics.
That will allow this team to make its own memories and create its own legend.
Your thoughts on Kobe’s comments? Let us know in the comments below!