Pros Can Raise Awareness
While Pearsall said focus groups grumbled about having professional athletes in the Olympics in Barcelona — where the men’s basketball Dream Team debuted — and in Atlanta, Miller says the evolution has been well received by fans and players.
“For a long time professionals had competed in individual sports like cycling and track and tennis. But the 1992 USA team was ground breaking in that it was the first team comprised of mega superstars — Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, who were on the finishing side of their careers — and players who were still pretty early in their careers — David Robinson, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing and college star Christian Laettner. That team was unique timing wise and name wise.”
Miller added that young international players have pointed to the 1992 Dream Team as having a big influence on their decisions to pursue basketball. “The team helped to create an awareness of the game both globally and nationally.”
Replacing Duncan with another NBA standout still leaves the men’s basketball team chockful of professional players and worthy of “Dream Team” status.
But the loss of well-known professional athletes to other Olympic teams due to crowded international sports schedules and injuries could also create room for other amateurs to shine in Sydney, giving them star power as well.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.