Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> With the Rio Summer Games set to begin this weekend, reach way back into your memory and find that Olympic basketball moment that you’ll never forget.
David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Easy. A press conference in Barcelona, Spain, the day before the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team — the “Dream Team” — was set to begin play. They’d coasted through the Tournament of the Americas in Portland, playing games of such little competitive value that opposing players were asking for pictures and shoes. There wasn’t a thought that the pros would actually lose an Olympic game, but there was some concern that they’d play sloppy an not be focused on the task at hand. In those days, a lot of people in the Olympic movement were dead set against NBA players in the “amateur” Games, and if the Dreamers didn’t play with some intent, the Ringheads would have a field day castigating their presence.
Anyway, someone asked Charles Barkley what he knew about Angola, the U.S. team’s first-round opponent.
“I don’t know much about Angola,” Chuck said, “but I know one thing–they’re in a lot of trouble.”
I didn’t give the Dreamers’ mental state another thought.
The Dream Team was even better than advertised. I had begged my boss at The Washington Post in the fall of 1991 to let me cover that team, and he agreed. It was the best move I ever made. Barkley, newly traded to Phoenix, was the best player on the team. Chris Mullin shot 75 percent on 3-pointers. David Robinson and Patrick Ewing were unbelievable at the defensive end. Magic Johnson made a dozen or so no-look passes. Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen cheated in the passing lanes and filled them on the break, and Michael Jordan was, really, a bystander for most of the fortnight, only dominant here and there. He didn’t have to be. The U.S. team went on a 46-1 run against Angola in that first game, Barkley elbowed an unfortunate Angolan named Herlander Coimbra in the chest, and the Americans went on to win the gold by an average of 43.8 points per game. They were perfection on the court, or as close as I’m ever going to see.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: You said “way back” so I’m going with the most memorable Olympics basketball game ever, USA vs. Soviet Union in 1972. I saw it as a kid, though little did I know that’s when game officials instituted sports’ first “replay system” — as in, let’s keep replaying this till the desired result is achieved. Allowing the USSR three bites at the gold apple was an international heist worthy of another “Oceans 11” sequel, and bravo for the Americans for not accepting their silver medals. There was a happy update, however: I covered the 40th reunion of that ’72 USA team and the fact is, they are better remembered and probably have bonded more tightly than any of this nation’s (yawn, business as usual) gold-medal champs. Never forget.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: 1972 Munich. A skinny, young Doug Collins, who was clobbered after making a steal at half court and driving to the basket with 3 seconds left, gathered himself and made the two biggest clutch free throws I’ve ever seen to give the United States a 50-49 lead. Everybody knows the craziness and controversy that followed. But the sight of a wobbly Collins draining those two shots remains burned in memory.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I once saw a guy, Vince Carter, turn another guy, Frederic Weis, into a step stool. That’s a pretty good one.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Vince Carter’s dunk in 2000, the poster to end all posters. Carter should’ve been awarded two gold medals — one for winning the basketball tournament with the U.S., and another for the high jump. Too bad this came before Twitter. I would love to have listened to the conversations between Frederic Weis and his consoling teammates right after the fact. What’s French for, “You good?”
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: On the opening night of the 2008 games in Beijing, I had a seat near the top of Wukesong Culture and Sports Center for USA-China. The game wasn’t very good, but it was an incredible atmosphere that introduced me, as well as some of the American players, to China’s passion for basketball. The sold-out crowd obviously cheered own team, but were nearly as loud when the U.S. team was introduced. And Kobe Bryant was clearly their favorite. There have been much bigger moments in in Olympic history and the gold medal game that year was a classic. But on a personal level, that opening night was something special.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I hate to answer a question with a question, but does the entire Barcelona experience count as a moment? If so, I’m going with the original Dream Team and the magical ride we all went on following that team. That includes the exhibition games, the actual competition and all of the fantastic memories the Dream Team provides to this day. I’d never thought about the game in global terms until then, until we got a chance to see how big our NBA stars were on the other side of the world … and to so many other world class athletes. That was also the one chance we had to see Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and others in the same uniform (in something other than All-Star weekend), so it was truly like watching a fantasy team in action.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I remember as a little kid watching the 1972 Olympic basketball final on TV. Doug Collins introduced himself to the world by making two free throws to apparently earn the gold medal with three seconds remaining. Then, in a sequence of inept game management by the officials, the Soviets were given three possessions to win. It turned out to be the most important game in the history of basketball, because it encouraged the rest of the world to think of the Americans as rivals rather than as gods; but I remember it being the first time I realized that the better team doesn’t always win.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Well, the Dream Team is obvious answer, because for me as a teenage NBA fan, seeing that particular collection of greats (Michael! Magic! Bird! Charles!) on the court together at the same time in the same uniform was unimaginable and just so exciting. I showed my support by trying to collect all the cups from McDonald’s. I also had the good fortune to have the 1996 Olympics take place in my backyard in Atlanta, and I was able to attend a bunch of basketball games. It wasn’t the Dream Team, but it wasn’t far off.