Dream Team-Redeem Team comparisons spark debate
Yes, there are things going on this NBA offseason besides prolonged negotiations and debate about whether Kobe Bryant will actually play overseas.
There's of course Ron Artest's random antics that pop into the headlines every other day. When Andrew Bynum's not taking up boxing lessons, he's getting well-earned scrutiny for getting caught parking in handicapped spaces. Pau Gasol, meanwhile, has kept busy training with the Spanish national team preparing for the European Championships this month.
Based on the number of emails and comments, however, most of the buzz lately has centered around Magic Johnson's recent hourlong conversation with Times columnist Bill Plaschke at Loyola Marymount University. Johnson relived his storied Lakers career that spanned five NBA championships, three league and Finals MVPs, 12 All-Star appearances and a million-dollar smile. He looked ahead to possible ownership opportunities with an NFL team in Los Angeles, or even the Dodgers. Looking back, he admitted that he wouldn't have retired so quickly after being diagnosed with HIV.
There's one comment Johnson made that elicited plenty of debate: His boasts about the 1992 Dream Team and their superiority to the 2008 Redeem Team.
"When you think about the Olympics and the Dream Team, I have to throw it to you," Johnson said. "Kobe [Bryant] and them won by 22 points. Ehh, 22 points? We won by an average of 44 points. So when they want to step up to that, you tell them we'll be waiting on them."
In putting together this week's mailbag, it's obvious Johnson's argument struck a chord. (For future mailbags, email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is totally BS. I love Magic, but if anyone on this planet would see the talent level of the european teams when Magic played are better than today's players, then you are not being truthful. Those teams stood around and watched the Dream Team run up and down the court. Heck, during one game, the coach of the other team had to call time-out, just to tell his team, there was a basketball game going on. Those guy's tried to get autographs before the game; during the game, and after the game. Remember the guy who got hit by Barkley? I think he went on to write a book about it! C'mon Magic, let it go. Your time has past, and by the way people,Jordans as well." -- Kenneth McDowell
You have a point. As Jackie MacMullan mentioned in her book, "When the Game Was Ours," there were plenty of instances where the Dream Team was treated like a rock band, as Coach Chuck Daly once put it. In the Olympic quarterfinals against Puerto Rico, when it appeared Larry Bird may have to sit out with an aching back, one of the game officials begged him to check in so he could tell his family he refereed a game in which Bird played. Before an earlier contest, Brazilian star Oscar Schmidt asked Bird to sign his autobiography, "Drive."
Meanwhile, the 2008 U.S. Olympic team had to face a competitive Spanish team featuring Pau Gasol in the gold medal game. Their semifinal victory was over an Argentine team featuring the San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobili. And their opening-round game against China featured Yao Ming.
That's why looking at the margin of victory between the 1992 Dream Team (45.8 points) and the 2008 Redeem Team (24.63) isn't a good measure of comparison. As Sports Illustrated's Jack MacCallum noted, it's more telling to look at the overall talent. Jordan proved to be the complete player on offense and defense in '92, while LeBron James was the 2008 team's better overall player and Kobe Bryant was its top defender.
The Dream Team also had a size advantage with David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley versus the Redeem Team's Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer. Though the 2008 team boasted more point guard depth (Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Deron Williams), the Dream Team had plenty of options to make up John Stockton's limitations from a leg injury. Of course there was Johnson, but Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin and Clyde Drexler ran the offense as well.
I used to think that Kobe should take this time and rest. But then I thought, this man has poured blood, sweat, and tears in the Lakers and it netted him 5 rings. The man loves the game of basketball and regardless of what everyone thinks is best for him Kobe knows himself better than anyone. His play wasn't the Lakers issue in the playoffs. Gasol's disappearing act, Odom's reality distraction, and no bench help were the issues. Kobe will still be Kobe. 15 years now and yet his own fans still question him. Smh -- alwillgriff84
That's why this issue is always dicey. The Lakers can't contact Bryant anyways because NBA lockout rules. But the organization has largely deferred to Bryant because of what he brings to the organization and his relentless work ethic. There's always private fretting over whether Bryant is pushing the envelope too far. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Bryant's not exactly seeing eye to eye with them at this point because of the team's failure to keep him in the loop regarding its coaching search.
But in the interest of maximizing the Lakers' chances of winning next season, Bryant needs as much rest as possible to heal his body. He obviously wasn't the main factor in the Lakers' losing in the playoffs. Had he been able to finish games in better fashion and maintain a higher energy level, however, Bryant would have been able to camouflage some of the Lakers' shortcomings. They'll obviously enter next season highly motivated, but the Lakers' aging roster and sapped financial resources will make it necessary for Bryant to cover up some of the team's other weaknesses.
-- Mark Medina
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Photos, from top: Coach Chuck Daly led the U.S. Dream Team to Olympic gold in 1992; Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony of the 2008 Redeem Team in China; Bryant dunks during an exhibition game in the Philippines last month. Credits: Ed Reinke / Associated Press; Associated Press; Dennis M. Sabangan / European Pressphoto Agency