The question has been raised during each and every Olympic year since the original Dream Team took the world by storm 20 years ago.
So no one should be surprised that it’s come up here during the USA Basketball training camp and that this team’s elder statements and competitor extraordinaire Kobe Bryant would have a diplomatic response when asked how this current team would fare against the originators.
“Well, just from a basketball standpoint, they obviously have a lot more size than we do — you know, with [David] Robinson and [Patrick] Ewing and [Karl] Malone and those guys,” Bryant said. “But they were also — some of those wing players — were also a lot older, at kind of the end of their careers. We have just a bunch of young racehorses, guys that are eager to compete … So I don’t know. It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”
Of course, he does. When has Bryant ever been on a team that he didn’t believe would beat back all challengers?
It would have been supremely disappointing if he said anything else.
How these teams might have fared against one another is a conversation reserved strictly for revisionist historians and fantasy basketball fans.
The original Dream Team, led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and their own elder statesman, Larry Bird, would certainly claim a similar victory against this or any other team that has come after them.
But you have to admit, it would be intriguing to see Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and the rest of this current crew go head-to-head against their idols.
If it’s an Olympic team spitting contest, then others would have to be invited as well.
The 1960 team, Dream Team II, the 2008 team that boasted five of the players on the current team and also the 2000 team that won gold in Sydney … just to name a few.
If someone had a simulation program that allowed us to play the imaginary games out a million times, there would probably be close to half a million different outcomes.
Would the pros from 20 years ago beat the college superstars from 32 years earlier or the new generation of stars that followed them 20 years later?
We’ll never know.
But you better believe that no one involved with any of those teams would ever, ever, concede anything.
We’ll side with U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, an assistant coach on the original Dream Team, when he says that every team that’s come after the original crew, should abstain from not only using the word “Dream” to describe themselves, but also making comparisons as well.