Back in the Rightful Hands

Amazing. Simply amazing. I never thought I could be so giddy for a Team USA victory. After Team USA defeated Spain 118-107, I was ecstatic. But why? It was supposed to happen, right? But, they did not blow the Spaniards out as most expected. Everything was set up for an easy USA win. Spain’s best ball handler and leader, Jose Calderon, was injured and unable to play. Then early in the game, one of USA’s biggest weaknesses was no longer. They were knocking in threes from all angles. USA seemed destined for a blowout win and the gold medal finally back in their hands. But, Spain fought back. As the clock ticked towards zeros, the score somehow got closer and closer. Spain was within 4 with a few minutes remaining. It was not going to be easy. What did Team USA do? They inserted their best lineup and got the ball in the hands of their best players. Lebron made a critical layup and snagged some key rebounds. Dwyane Wade hit a big time three-pointer adding to his game-high 27 points. Kobe went off in his favorite quarter and scored 13 of his 20 points to go along with 6 assists and a memorable 4-point play.

The image above says it all. Team USA felt the same way I did. They were ecstatic. During the medal ceremony, they were giddy. And when our national anthem was played, they were at peace. USA basketball was at peace. The gold medal was back where it belonged.

There has been much debate about whether the “Redeem Team” could compete with or possibly defeat the “Dream Team” from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. I re-watched 2 games (Croatia and Angola) from the 1992 Olympics this past week along with the entire 2008 Olympics and exhibition games. I honestly do not know who would win.

The teams would attempt to establish their own vastly different styles of play. The Dream Team played an NBA style game. They did not run as much. They played half-court defense with limited pressure. They ran a half-court offense where they passed incredibly well but also iso’d their players a considerable amount. The one place where the Dream Team would dominate is down low. David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone would demolish Carlos Boozer, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. USA’s lack of interior depth would be devastating. But, the Redeem team would make up for this with their punishing pressure defense and fast-break offense. The Redeem Team is unstoppable in the open court. Who would Larry Bird guard? In 1992, he was years past his prime and his bad back had pretty much given out on him. He could hardly stay in front of the Angola players. He would be a liability against the Redeem Team. Additionally, the Dream Team was never tested in 1992. They never had to fight back. Obviously, they had the players to do it, but they were never forced to do it collectively. The Redeem Team was forced and they succeeded.

In 1992, there were 3 international players in the NBA. A year ago, the NBA had 90 international players. The international scene has changed completely. Therefore, to try and look at the statistics or point differentials is useless.

The most interesting thing about the comparison is that it can actually be made. It has been 16 years since the Dream Team. In any kind of athletic competition, the best team of an era almost always will defeat the best team of 16 years prior. They quality of the game and the athletes simply progresses. The athletes are generally more skilled. They are bigger, faster, stronger, and quicker than their predecessors. The fact that most people and experts believe that the Dream Team would still defeat the Redeem Team shows you how great the Dream Team actually was. They were gods among boys during those Olympics.

Let us not try to figure out which team was better but just enjoy the truly magical shows they both displayed.

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