Will the real Dream Team please take the court?
Just days ahead of tipoff at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, basketball superstar Lebron James told “Nightline” that he agreed with Kobe Bryant’s comments that this year’s Olympic NBA squad could beat the 1992 “Dream Team.”
“As a competitor you never want to say that you will lose no matter who you are going against,” James told “Nightline” anchor Cynthia McFadden. Having said that, the NBA star was quick to pay his respects to the 1992 team.
“The ’92 Dream Team paved the way for all of us… We understand what they did for our game, but we also are big time competitors as well so if we got the opportunity to play them in a game we feel like we would win too.”
Kobe Bryant made ripples two weeks ago when he said this year’s U.S. Olympic NBA team — which includes himself, Lebron James and Kevin Durant — is better than the iconic “Dream Team” that Michael Jordan led to Olympic gold in 1992.
“It would be a tough one but I think we would pull it out,” Bryant said at a press conference. “People who think we can’t beat that team for one game, they are crazy. To sit there and say we can’t, it’s ludicrous. We can beat them one time.”
The Dream Team, which featured Jordan, Magic Johnson and Patrick Ewing, has long been hailed as the greatest basketball team of all time, literally the gold standard for Olympic basketball teams.
Bryant’s comments have set off a firestorm of friendly rivalry between the two teams over the past few days, with players from both squads flinging one-up’s at each other through the press. Michael Jordan reportedly laughed when heard what Bryant said, according to the Associated Press.
“I imagine he’s saying it to legitimize his own Dream Team,” Jordan said. “To me it’s not even a question which team is better. They learned from us. We didn’t learn from them.”
U.S. Olympic NBA team coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was an assistant coach for the Dream Team, jokingly told “Nightline” that his 2012 team could beat the players hailed as legends of the game.
“Well, today, they could,” he told McFadden, laughing, poking fun at the fact that the “Dream Team” players are all now pushing 50.
Coach K was brought in to revitalize Team USA after the 2004 U.S. team imploded in Athens and took home the bronze. Under Coach K, the celebrated head basketball coach for Duke University, the U.S. Olympic basketball team won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
As for this year’s team, Team USA has beaten Brazil, Argentina and Spain in exhibition play and will face France in the first round on Sunday. But heading into the Olympics, Coach K still fondly recalled the Dream Team.
“The Dream Team was not just about the Dream Team of ’92,” Krzyzewski said. “It was a collection of the greatest stars in the NBA over that decade and there will never be a team like that. In their prime all of those guys together would never be touched by any team.”