The New York Times’ coverage of these Olympics has been expansive and prolific, from their Olympics blog to their print edition and everything in between (I suppose that’s what happens when you have 32 reporters in Beijing). At Rings today, Team USA (and college basketball) beat writer Pete Thamel, following the lead of Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel, proposes whether the 1992 Dream Team, widely acknowledged to be the best collection of basketball talent ever assembled, would be able to beat this 2008 team, commonly known as the Redeem Team after the failures in 2004.
But here’s another wrinkle to this question: If you believe that this year’s team, coached by Mike Krzyzewski, could handle Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, then wouldn’t the title of “Redeem Team” no longer be appropriate? Dream Team may be a cliche applied to every American basketball team whose captain isn’t Allen Iverson, but it seems unfair to label this team anything but.
All summer long, the defining traits of this team have been exhausted. Team USA Managing Director Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski have made the team a three-year commitment to emphasize the importance of bringing back gold; Krzyzewski has supposedly instilled a sense of humility and stripped the team of its American arrogance; the players have, finally, taken pride in their defense and have converted steals, blocks and stops into high-flying dunks. But now, after mundane routs of formidable opponents Greece and Spain, this year’s Team USA may be remembered for the enormous amount of skill. The question, for me, isn’t whether the 1992 Dream Team would beat the 2008 Redeem Team. If Kobe Bryant and LeBron James could handle Jordan and Magic, then why can’t this year’s team be the Dream Team instead?
What do you think: Who would win? Is this team a Dream Team, or a Redeem Team? Or, in a titling situation we haven’t covered, does its identity rest in a combination of the two?
–by Ben Cohen