Friday, August 11, 2017

Dream Team

I was always a basketball fan as a kid — admittedly, more as something I enjoyed playing than watching — and I was always a fan of the Olympics.  When it started to be rumored that American professional players would be allowed to compete in the Barcelona Olympics, my imagination was definitely captured.  There was an incredible amount of speculation as to just who would play.  As I recall, Michael Jordan was the only automatic selection, but as a Utah Jazz fan, I was sure — and later proven right — that Karl Malone and John Stockton would be on what was labeled as the Dream Team.  Dream Team it was, and they were incredibly fun to watch as they dominated any and all competition in the Olympics in Barcelona.

Book cover.Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever (ISBN: 978-0-345-52050-0) by Jack McCallum takes a pretty in-depth look at that most famous of basketball teams.  The book goes into a lot of detail about how it even came about that the pros were allowed in the Olympics.  It was a long, drawn-out process that involved FIBA, the USOC, and the NBA.  Once all the egos involved in such organizations were sorted to an acceptable degree, the path was open, and the U.S. got to work putting the Dream Team together.  McCallum, who was an NBA writer for a long time, chronicles how each member of the team was selected.  He profiles them, some briefly, some in great detail.  The qualifying tournament and the Olympics themselves are also described, with the Olympics, obviously, getting more attention even though the games had similar outcomes: blowouts.  Since there is so much spectacle that attends the Olympics, and the Dream Team only compounded this effect, there was a bit more to cover.  The book finishes with a short section on how the Dream Team had a large impact on the the global game of basketball and talks about the mess that were the next to U.S. Olympic teams.

As a basketball and Olympic fan, the book was a fun read.  I think I wish I had paid more attention to the subtitle since the book definitely concentrated on Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley.  The first three are some of the greatest players ever, with Jordan being the greatest player ever.  Barkley is a larger-than-life personality and, I got the impression, easy to write about.  So, it was interesting to read about them, but there just wasn’t much about my real basketball idols, Stockton and Malone, nor really about the other six players on the team.  I enjoyed reading about what Jordan called the best basketball game he’s ever played in, which was a five-on-five scrimmage right before the Olympics started where the skills and driven, competitive personalities of the superstars were pitted against each other.  The discussions of the background behind the team was quite interesting.  I was, of course, impressed with Stockton’s approach to playing: it was an honor to be selected and who wouldn’t play for one’s country?  The final negative was that there was more R-rated language than I would’ve like to have read.

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This work, including all text, photographs, and other original work, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 3.0 License and is copyrighted © MMXIV John Pruess.

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