The 20th anniversary of the Dream Team and its mesmerizing run through the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics has sparked plenty of tributes of late, and many more will come. But Lang Whitaker's oral history on the team for GQ is a must-read for a few reasons.
For starters, there are a few takes from behind the scenes that may surprise, like the fact that world domination by the NBA's best was something the NBA wasn't particularly interested in.
David Stern (NBA commissioner): The notion that the NBA wanted to redeem the 1988 loss? Patently wrong. From our view, we were stuck with playing in the Olympics. We didn't see it becoming the phenomenon that it became.
David Falk (agent for Michael Jordan): There was a growing recognition that we were putting college players out at a time when every other country was putting out pros. And were we being naive to continue that, just because there's a history?
Stern: We said to FIBA [the international basketball federation] that we weren't gung ho to play in the Olympics, but we would try to be good soldiers to support basketball. So they had a vote. The U.S. was against it, and the Russians were against it, too. But the overwhelming vote was in favor.
One big question behind the formation of the team was how close Isaiah Thomas was to making the squad, and why he ultimately didn't. It turns out, according to the story, that his Detroit teammate would have been picked ahead of him. That story likely won't satisfy the conspiracy theorists, though.
Russ Granik: The last player, as I recall, was between Clyde Drexler and Isiah Thomas, and you had two pretty great résumés there. I don't know what the final vote was—I never asked—but when they counted, it came out for Clyde.
David DuPree (reporter for USA Today): If they were selecting solely on ability and accomplishments, Isiah Thomas may have deserved it. But who are you going to leave off? Nobody was tougher than John Stockton; nobody was a better passer. John Stockton was a tough son of a bitch.
Jan Hubbard (NBA columnist for Newsday): Stockton broke a bone in his leg, and it healed very quickly. But initially they were going to replace him, and it was going to be Joe Dumars. So Isiah wasn't even going to be the first substitute.
And then there was the infamous college squad scrimmage, in which the Dream Team got jumped.
Penny Hardaway (college squad player): They just thought, "Okay, they got these young guys to give us a little warm-up. We're going to beat them up a little bit, sign a couple autographs, and then everybody go on about their merry way." They didn't know how talented we really were.
Brian McIntyre (NBA vice president of public relations): Penny had a couple of steals at midcourt, and everyone was going, "Whoa." There was—I can still feel it—there was tension. First day!
Charles Barkley (Team USA power forward): The first time we saw them, they looked like babies. We were like, "Hey, man, let’s don’t kill these little kids." And they were playing like it was Game 7. Before we knew it, they upset us.
Allan Houston (college squad player): The clock ran out—we had a twenty-minute clock—and we were up. And everybody looked around sheepishly, like, This is not supposed to happen. Nobody said anything for a few minutes.
And these are all moments before the team started going hard at each other in practice, arrived at the Olympics, and then went on a legendary run that created decades of fanfare. Other enticing highlights from the piece include a much younger Mike Krzyzewksi's introduction to pro coaching, and of course, Michael Jordan's insane competitive streak.
The piece is revealing in that it adds a few details to stories you may have already known, and it's a great primer for Wednesday night's "The Dream Team" documentary on NBA TV.
Popular Stories On ThePostGame:
-- The Truth Is Out There: Which Sports Conspiracy Can You Believe?
-- Ranking The USA Olympic Teams Since 1992
-- Rugby Player Displays Incredible Strength
-- Growing Vocal Acceptance For Gay NFL Players