For those of you who enjoy the Olympics, I have some good news for you: 2016 will be an Olympic year! We’ll once again be treated to the pageantry and excellence in athletic competition that only the Summer Olympics can provide.
Note: I realize that with the Olympics still eight months away, today’s post may seem a bit off-topic. Could that be because I originally started writing it years ago, and I’m just digging it out of the Drafts folder because I need to post something every day this month? Perhaps.
In 1992, the United States first sent professional basketball players to compete in the Summer Olympics. Tired of seeing the nation’s college players get defeated by “amateurs” from other nations, the U.S. decided that they were going to send NBA stars to Barcelona, and they’d show the world who the real power in basketball was.
The result was one of the more lopsided affairs you’ll ever see. The American “Dream Team” was led by NBA legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, and they so outclassed the competition that their opponents didn’t even seem to mind. They were just amazed that they were on the same court as these mega-stars.
We thought those good times would continue forever. We assumed that we’d just keep sending these “Dream Teams” to international competitions and they’d keep bringing back the gold. Because of this, most Americans stopped paying attention to Olympic basketball. Most people didn’t even notice that the U.S. barely managed a victory in the 2000 gold medal game.
In 2004, the inevitable happened: The U.S. team lost multiple games and had to settle for a bronze medal. America, the country that once stood for freedom, democracy, and basketball superiority was now only third best in the world. As a nation, we collectively held our heads in shame.
After that debacle, greater scrutiny was placed on which players were selected and how they would work together as a team. As a result, the 2008 and 2012 teams both succeeded where the 2004 team failed. The tournaments in both years went about the same: The U.S. defeated most teams easily, had a couple of close games, and ultimately won the gold medal.
There’s a good reason to expect more of the same in 2016. America will be represented by top stars like James and Kevin Durant, and they’ll probably win the gold medal game by about five points against Spain, Argentina, or some other talent-laden country.
Honestly, it’s become a bit boring.
So how can we make this exciting again? Do we really want to see another round of America’s top stars winning close games against the top stars of other countries? I think we’ve had enough of that.
Here’s something different they can try: Why not bring back the original Dream Team from 1992?
Is there anyone out there who wouldn’t want to see Jordan, Charles Barkley, and the rest of that team come out of retirement and make one last run at a gold? Sure, many of those guys are old and out of shape now, but that’s half the fun! We know how great those guys were in their prime, but wouldn’t a true measure of their greatness be to see if they can still win long after their primes have passed?
There’s one problem with this whole scenario: It would require Christian Laettner. Laettner, the former Duke star, was added to the original Dream Team because for some reason, the United States basketball people thought that one college player should be included on the team. They thought it would preserve the “amateur spirit,” or some B.S. like that.
I think we see enough of Laettner every March when CBS shows highlights of his shot against Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA tournament. Except for a few Duke fans (and who really gives a crap about what they think), I don’t think anyone would be that upset if they excluded Laettner.
Here’s my really brilliant idea: To replace Laettner, they should pick a younger athlete; one who is still near his athletic prime; one who has proven to be an American hero, and represents all we strive for when we partake in athletics.When you think of American Olympic glory, who’s the first name that comes to mind?
Thanks to his athletic ability and history of Olympic success, Phelps is the natural choice for the last spot on the team.
Phelps claims that he’s done with Olympic competition, but perhaps this new challenge could lure him back. If he thought it was tough to win eight golds in 2008, just think how tough it would be to win a basketball tournament surrounded by a bunch of elderly players; especially since nobody knows whether or not Phelps can play basketball at an even remotely competent level.
Who wouldn’t watch that? I think there are many Americans out there who would love to see Phelps take one more run at gold, and surely I can’t be the only person who has ever dreamed of seeing Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps team up on the basketball court.
So there you have my plan to reignite interest in Olympic basketball: Just take 15 well-past-their prime basketball greats, add in an additional Olympic hero, and turn them loose on the world.