Nobody could really picture guys like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan playing together. At the time, it just didn’t seem possible. Then the impossible actually happened, and it took the basketball world by storm. Never before had players of that caliber played together on a stage like that, and it was the stuff people would dream about for years to come.
While not many other USA basketball teams could match the certain “magical” element of the 1992 USAB team, other “Dream Teams” have risen through the ranks of history and made the USA one of the most competitive basketball programs on the globe. And if there’s one experience NBA fans around the world have grown accustomed to, it’s the dominance of USA basketball teams over the years(and the dominance of Michael Phelps too, but that's a story for a whole different day).
This year was no different as team USA, led by Kevin Durant and Deandre Jordan, smashed any opponent who stood in their way. Sure, there were SOME moments where the score was a little TOO close. But in the end, the USA won its 14th gold medal and improved its all-time record to a crazy 130-5. However, if you look behind the scenes, you can see some hints that will make USAB fans grieve.
Let's start with coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has just won his third Olympic gold medal. It is no secret he will be handing the reigns to team USA over to Greg Popovich when the next Olympic basketball games take place. Pop and Krzyzewski are both legendary coaches that have an immediate draw to players around the country. While it will be a dream come true to see Pop coach the next USA team, how long will this partnership last?
Rumors around the league continue to hint that Pop is likely to retire from the NBA when his latest contract comes to an end, or that he might sign a quick 2-year deal to end his career. Either way, Pops’ professional coaching career is beginning its end, and it is hard to imagine him still coaching team USA long after his NBA retirement. In other words, team USA will have to get another coach pretty soon after Pop. And when that day comes, who’s next?
It is very likely to say that regardless of who they hire after Pop, they will not truly match up to the greatness and legacy of their predecessors. This downgrade at the coaching spot will only help accelerate the downgrade of the actual roster. Look at this years team as an example. Compared to the old MJ and Magic Dream team, or even the 2008 Kobe and LeBron team, it becomes clear that this years team didn’t have quite the same quality of superstar type players as previous teams. Besides Kevin Durant and Melo, who else on this year's USA team would you take over anybody on the 1992 roster?
It will only get worse too when you consider the fact that players LeBron and D-Wade will probably not play for the team in their primes again, and the number of top tier “big men” for team USA to pick up are far from what they used to be. There just seems to be a lack of those once in a lifetime type players like Kobe, MJ, and even Charles Barkley. Yes, Demar DeRozan is a great player and yes, Klay Thompson is one of the best shooters we’ve ever seen. But let us face the facts: they are not on the same level as Curry, LeBron, and probably never will be.
The few players that DO have that status don’t seem to have the same level of interest in the team, not to mention the fact that they are already 27-28 years old, which means their chances if joining will only decrease from here. So here is the bottom line: The talent level of team USA basketball might be in steep decline, which means we might not get another “Dream Team” for a long time. Whether this decline actually happens or not, you must admit it kind of makes you want to go back and watch some highlights of Magic and Bird taking the court together in that infamous 1992 team…….doesn’t it?