I have not heard anyone oppose the suggestion that the original U.S.A. Basketball Dream Team was the greatest team ever assembled in any sports. For one, it had in its roster three of the best players who played in the NBA: Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. And who else were in the lineup? Big names, all – "Sir" Charles Barkley, "The Admiral" David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, "The Mailman" Karl Malone, Clyde "The Glide" Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, and Christian Laettner (the best college player of 1991-1992). On the way to capturing the gold medal in Men’s Basketball in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by beating Croatia in the finals (the score was 117-85), the original Dream Team ran roughshod over the opposition, winning by an average margin of 44 points in the elimination round!
Two years later, another Dream Team, composed of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars, competed and won the gold medal in the 1994 World Basketball Championships. The two succeeding teams assembled by the NBA (to the 1996 and 2000 Olympics) were successful as well, although their respective winning margins per game were much less than that established by the original Dream Team. Not a few people, in fact, found it not fitting for these two NBA-assembled teams to have each been labeled as a "Dream Team", simply because they were not. Most of the big names originally considered to play didn’t end up in the final rosters due to injuries or for begging off for various personal reasons.
And so the inevitable happened: The U.S.A. men’s basketball team humiliatingly ended up 6th in the 2002 World Championships; placed a dismal 3rd in the 2004 Olympics; and sorrily finished 3rd in last year’s World Championships! As these events were unfolding, NBA Commissioner David Stern was heard to have commented, "What’s bad for the U.S.A. is good for basketball", obviously referring to the leveling of the basketball playing field in the world.
So the other countries, particularly those in Europe (and special mention to Argentina; thanks mainly to one of my favorite NBA players, Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs), have caught up with the U.S.A. It is now time to heed the call of Allen Iverson when he was heard saying at the end of the 2006 World Championships (won by Spain) to "get Shaq and the other big names in the NBA to don the U.S.A. uniform." I must agree because the U.S.A. can reclaim its lofty position in world basketball only by sending the "best" players now playing in the NBA. Short of this, any future U.S.A. basketball team will continue to fail.
Having said that, I have drawn up a collection of who I think are the best players in the NBA today to make up the U.S.A. basketball team to the 2008 Olympics that will be held in Beijing, China. I call it "My Dream Team." I listed them down in no particular order, but with a brief remark on why I choose each:
1. Allen Iverson (Denver Nuggets) – As one of two point guards; he deserves a spot for always playing big and with lots of intensity. His consistent high points production is remarkable.
2. Jason Kidd (New Jersey Nets) – As the starting point guard; he will bring in much experience to the team and, with his leadership, can hold the team together. He’s third in the assists department (with 9.2 assists per game) at the end of the 2006-2007 NBA regular season.
3. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) – As guard/forward; he’s league-leading 31.6 points per game average should make him a hands-down choice for a starting position.
4. Shaquille O’Neal (Miami Heat) – As the starting center; this is not because of Allen Iverson’s urgings. Shaq’s imposing presence alone makes the players of the other teams feel completely threatened.
5. Tracy McGrady (Houston Rockets) – As forward; though he didn’t figure well in any of the statistics department in the last NBA regular season, T-Mac can hit the lights out of any playing court at any given playing time, and I don’t think many would contest that.
6. Gilbert Arenas (Washington Wizards) – as forward; he’s simply been playing so well lately, and he will be bringing with him to the team his 28.4 points average, 3rd best at the end of the last NBA regular season.
7. Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs) – as forward/center; I know that Tim had a difficult time adjusting to the amateur rules of FIBA. But he’s so good at playing the game (he’s one of my favorites) and I believe he has to lend himself again to the U.S.A. cause.
8. Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) – as forward; he led the U.S.A. team in scoring in last year’s World Championships (where the U.S.A. team finished 3rd), and I think he deserves a second chance at winning a gold medal for the U.S.A. His 28.9 points scoring average was second only to Kobe Bryant’s in the last NBA regular season.
9. LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers) – as forward; he simply has great skills and plays so well in every game. His 27.3 points per game production (4th at the end of the last NBA regular season) is not something to sneer at.
10. Kevin Garnett (Minnesota Timberwolves) – as starting forward and alternate center; for me, Kevin is the most versatile player in the NBA today. His 12.8 rebounds per game led that statistics department in the last NBA regular season. I really would love to see him don the U.S.A. colors.
11. Ray Allen (Seattle Supersonics) – as forward; like Jason Kidd, he will be lending valuable experience to the team. And with him and Tracy McGrady on the floor, it will be like "The Shootout at OK Corral."
12. Dwyane Wade – as forward; he’s been saddled by injuries lately, but if healthy, he’s such a force to reckon with. As co-captain of the U.S.A. team in last year’s World Championships (the other two being LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony), he likewise deserves another chance at a gold medal for the U.S.A.
It is obvious from my choices that the starting positions should go to: Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant at guard; Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady at forward; and Shaquille O’Neal at center.
The head coaching chores will most likely go to Avery Johnson for leading the Dallas Mavericks to a best 67-15 win-loss record at the end of the last NBA regular season. But I will, of course, be happy to see Gregg Popovich occupy that position since I am biased for the San Antonio Spurs.
I also know that the 12th player in the team should be the top college player of the 2006-2007 season, so one of my choices will have to be bumped off. I realize, too, that many of you may not agree on some of my picks and I will be happy if you could share your own "Dream Teams." The bottom line is to, as much as possible, assemble the best (and I mean the "best" in every sense of the word) players there are in the NBA today and hope that there will be no injuries nor any lame excuses not to play. I really feel that it is urgent the gold medal is brought back to the U.S.A., and the 2008 Beijing Olympics is the right time to achieve that goal.