Rant and Rave: Dream Team

Rating: 4.0

“There will never be another team like it. There can’t be.” – Magic Johnson

When you ask basketball fans what “heaven” for them is, none would say it’s a cloudy community with St. Peter at the gates.  Instead, they would either give you their favorite team winning the championship, or the fan’s “dream team”, a roster composed of all of the fan’s favorite players joining forces, the impossible teams usually seen in fantasy leagues online or, to some extent, the Olympics.

In Jack McCallum’s Dream Team, we see a chronicle of perhaps the closest we will ever get to “basketball heaven”: eleven basketball hall-of-famers joining forces on that summer of 1992 not only to win the gold medal, but also the hearts of fans worldwide. Composed of Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, and many more, the “Dream Team”, as they were fondly called, cruised through the competition with bumps, bruises, and unlikely fans in tow.

Going beyond the game itself, McCallum sets out on a quest to rediscover what that team really meant not only to those around the team, but for the team itself. Drawing interviews from the players, coaches, staff, and anyone and everyone who had encountered the Dream Team on its quest for gold, the book not only commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the team – coincidentally igniting debates about the current US Basketball Olympic team – but also what influence the team has held over those same twenty lasting years.

Throughout the book, there was one point that McCallum emphasized. This team wasn’t simply about basketball; it was also about culture and crossing borders. Before the Barcelona Olympics, everyone perceived the NBA the same way some perceive North Korea: videotapes and news were the only things that crossed the oceans to gave the international community a taste of what the NBA really was. Rarely did NBA players travel abroad, so for them to play in the Olympics was a huge step towards a narrowing divide. To add to that, the hype surrounding these players was so great that their opponents not only played against them, but also wanted their pictures and autographs. It’s not every day that you read about Michael Jordan signing an autograph for the guy he just dunked on, or Magic Johnson taking pictures with the team he just beat by more than forty points.

When all is said and done, the book points out that the Dream Team is what made the NBA what it is today: open, diverse, awed, a dream. To prove the point: in 1992, youngsters Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol were watching their German and Spanish boyhood idols competing against America’s finest, inspiring both to discover, play, and become big in the game they will later love. Once the Dream Team crossed the Atlantic, the game of basketball truly became global, because it was after the 1992 Olympics that the competition started sharing many practices with the mighty NBA, and from these shared practices, only got better.

During the recent Olympics held last year in London, debates were ignited as to whether the 2012 US Basketball team, composed of current NBA All-Stars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, would win against the legendary 1992 team. Some see a virtual tie; others see a victory for the 2012 team due to improved competition, while there are those who claim that no one will ever beat “11 Hall of Famers and a college kid”. Despite the ongoing debate on who will win the “dream match”, one thing’s for sure: there will never be another team like the Dream Team. The book so clearly points to this, and it is a comforting conclusion that the reader would like to end with, and perhaps be inspired by.

Gio Gloria

By Gio Gloria

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