The London Olympics get underway Friday and amidst all the awesomeness that is fencing and badminton, I'll pay closest attention to the US men's destruction of everyone else in basketball.
In fact, Kobe Bryant thinks this year's version of the national team is so good, he can care less about who they play in London and went after the original Dream Team during training camp.
Naturally, Charles Barkley fired back saying only three members this year's squad (Kobe, LeBron, Durant) would have made the original roster. I said forget this two-team showdown. Let's rank ALL the Dream Teams and World Championship squads. Here we go!
10. 2002 World Championships Team
An unmitigated disaster. So much so, that I used the word unmitigated. They finished in 6th place with NBA players on the roster! I don't even know or care who was on this team. Even the '98 World Championship team finished third with no NBA players because of the lockout.
9. 2004 Olympic "Nightmare" Team
Spurs fans knew this one was coming early. Tim Duncan was in his prime and played well but couldn't save this train wreck. Iverson and Marbury were the so-called "leaders" of the team while LeBron, Wade and Melo weren't ready for the international game. They lost to Lithuania and Puerto Rico in the group stage, then Argentina in the semis. They still won Bronze, but how did Lamar Odom and Richard Jefferson make this squad? I'm shocked Larry "leave town" Brown stuck around for the whole tournament.
8. 2006 World Championships Team
This was the first step to re-establish dominance after the '02 and '04 disasters, but apparently other countries figured out how to play basketball. The core of Melo, James and Wade remained with Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Bosh added to the mix. The US steamrolled through the early stages, but fell to Greece, a team with no NBA players, in the semis. GREECE! This made three straight international tourneys the US did not win a championship. It could be the low point, but again, Marbury on the '04 team? Yikes.
7. 2000 Olympic "Dream Team IV"
A few head scratchers on the roster like Vin Baker and Shareef-Abdur Rahim, but not a bad squad. Ray Allen, Payton, J-Kidd, Vince Carter, Garnett and Mourning were all in their prime. They won Gold, but nearly avoided a monumental upset against Lithuania in the semis. Smooth sailing otherwise, plus there was also the "dunk of death" where Vince Carter jumped over 7-foot French guy named Frederic something. Frederic hasn't been seen since.
6. 2010 World Championships "B-Team"
The international coming out party for the man I call The Terminator, Kevin Durant. Durant went all "Destroy Spurs" mode and dropped 38 in the semis against Lithuania, then 28 in the championship against Turkey in Istanbul, and we all know how hard it is to win there right!? OK, crickets. Anyways, it was the first World Championship title for the US since '94, yup, 16 years. The team featured other All-stars like D-Rose, Gay, Westbrook and Kevin Love with solid vets Billups, Igoudala, Tyson Chandler and somehow Odom even snuck onto this team.
5. 1994 World Championships "Dream Team II"
One word. Shaq. Two words. Game over. Not many people realize it, but this team was actually called Dream Team II, not the '96 Olympic squad. They crushed everyone with guys like Kemp, Larry Johnson, Reggie Miller, Mourning, Dumars and Nique Wilkins. Shaq was named MVP for basically camping out in the paint and dunking on Croatian dudes. Essentially the same thing he did his entire NBA career.
4. 2012 Olympic "Nickname to TBD" Team
Sorry Kobe, but not only is this team NOT better than '92, there's three other teams ahead of them. It's hard to argue against LeBron, Melo, CP3, Durant and Deron Williams in their prime, but they have no front line and I say that will all respect to Chandler, who I'm a big fan of. Give me Wade, Howard, Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge and we're in '92 range. They should wallop everyone and have the sweetest US team uniforms to date, sick throwbacks too, but they are fourth in my book. They don't even have a nickname, c'mon man!
3. 2008 Olympic "Redeem Team"
Kobe's team beats out Kobe's team mostly because of Kobe. I just became cross-eyed. We're talking about the same crop of players as the current team, but the biggest difference is '08 Kobe is better than '12 Kobe. The counter argument is '12 LeBron, Melo, CP3 and Deron Williams are better than the '08 version of themselves. I know, this is turning into a bad version of Back To The Future.
There was also '08 Wade who cancels out '12 Durant, and I'll take Bosh and D-12 over Chandler and Kevin Love. The '08 squad also had J-Kidd, who I'd take over Westbrook and Harden at this point in their careers. Still cross-eyed? So am I. The Redeem Team also had to beat really good Argentina and Spain teams that featured the '08 versions of Ginobili, Scola, Gasol, Rubio...you know what, let's not even go down this road.
The original Dream Team vs. Dream Team III (1996 Olympic squad)
Again, we're debating many of the same players so here are some key points. The same guys that were on both teams did not have a drop off in stats from '92 to '96. (Barkley, D-Robinson, Pippen, Malone, Stockton) I'd even argue the group was better overall because all five played in the Finals after '92.
The next key is Magic and Bird were shells of themselves in '92, and never played in an NBA game again. Mullin, Drexler and Ewing were ALL-NBAers in '92 but are they better than the '96 group of Penny Hardaway, Payton, Grant Hill, Reggie Miller and Richmond? Before you think it's a no brainer, keep in mind Penny, Payton and Hill were also All-NBAers in '96. I lean towards the '92 group here because they were all-time greats, but think of it as 5-on-5 game. Who really wins with Magic and Bird not in their prime?
Last, most important key point. Would you take '92 Jordan over '96 Shaq and Olajuwon? The difference is '92 Jordan wasn't as unstoppable as '96 Jordan when the Bulls won 72 games. Jordan reached his apex from '96 to '98. There was no stopping him. There was a small chance of "containing" him during the first three-peat.
Shaq and Hakeem in '96? Unreal tandem, you have to be Bill Russell and Chamberlain combined to stand a chance. We're splitting hairs, but I believe the '96 team would have beaten the '92 team head-to-head. I get the historical meaning of the original Dream Team, but look at the complete rosters. The original team brought the game to the world. The '96 team just crushed it. Dream Team III is the best all-time. There I said it. C'mon, Leattner was on the '92 roster!