During the summer of 1992, a group of basketball legends shaped the future of basketball around the globe. Wednesday night on NBA TV, viewers around the country were treated to an amazingly candid look at the Dream Team and their experiences from training camp through Barcelona. From John Stockton
trolling unsuspecting tourists on La Rambla to Charles Barkley, being, well, Chuck, we saw that group break down barriers and inspire millions. In combination with the European professionals that dotted NBA rosters in the early to mid '90s, the Dream Team paved the way for basketball to become the
global game it is today. It goes without saying then, that no other generation of athletes will have such a profound effect on the sport.
While the Dream Team’s impact will never be matched, is it nearly as certain that their talent won’t
be? The widespread belief is that a fielding a roster with 11 future Hall-of-Famers is an insurmountable
task for any U.S. Olympic team. Yet there is a group on the horizon that might just have the chops to
poke holes in that claim. It certainly won’t be the 2012 version. This current pool, even at full strength,
wouldn’t have the clout.
In four years, however, we could be singing a different tune. There could be a collection of talent that
rivals that of the ’92 team when it’s all said and done. Don’t believe us? Take a look and decide for
The Old Guard – Players likely locks for the Hall of Fame that will have to overcome age and injury issues to be included on the 2016 roster.
Members: Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade
Bryant will be 37 in the summer of 2016, but given his competitive edge, it’s not a stretch to see him
sign up for one last rodeo. His main incentive will be the possibility of adding a third gold medal to an already glittering resume. The big question surrounding Bryant is whether his balky right knee will
allow him to participate.
Wade's resume, which may yet include another title, makes him a great bet to be enshrined. However, his body and game are already showing signs of deteriorating at age 30. It might, then, be a bit
unrealistic to think he'll be physically able to participate in the Rio games four years from now. But it's not out of the question to see a 34-year old Wade join for a chance to ride off into the sunset with a
gold medal in hand.
The Established Superstars
These guys are on a clear path to the Hall of Fame and good bets to continue to represent their country four years from now. Only a freak injury or a shocking regression in production will stop one of them
from instant inclusion to Springfield.
Members: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose.
James' career could end right after the Finals and he'd no doubt find himself inducted into Springfield. Despite not having captured that elusive championship, he has been the most transcendent talent of his generation and already won three MVPs at the age of 27.
Durant will be the guy battling James for league supremacy for the next half-decade. At just 23, Durant has All-Star appearances and scoring titles to his credit and is on the verge of adding "NBA Champion" to
his resume as well. MVP seasons will follow at some point, so it's safe to say the odds are well in favor of Durant's career being recognized with a Hall of Fame induction.
As arguably the best point guard in the league right now, Paul will no doubt continue to pound out the All-Star appearances. The only drawback for Paul's case will be health. He will be 31 in the summer
of '16 and too much wear and tear on his bum knee could result not only in him being unavailable for
the Olympics, but lacking the credentials for the Hall.
Howard finds himself in a class by himself right now at the center position. Assuming his recent back
problems don’t become chronic, Howard will pile up enough All-Star appearances and Defensive Player
of the Year awards to be a first ballot choice. He'll only be 30 when the Rio games roll around so his
participation seems likely if in full health.
At just 23, Rose already is the proud owner of an MVP award. As one of the league’s most breathtaking
athletes, Rose should be able to maintain his recent level of production for many years to come.
However, a recent ACL-injury (that will cost him a good chunk of the upcoming NBA season) casts a
bit more doubt on his career arc. Rose will most likely always be good enough to feature on Olympic
squads, but if the injury saps any of the speed and explosiveness he relies on so heavily, it will likely drag
his Hall of Fame chances down with it.
This crowd will need some help to push their careers into Hall of Fame territory. For most, it won't take
much more than a small rise in production, a commitment to defense or being a key member of an NBA
championship team. To match the '92 team, this group likely needs to see at least three of its seven
members both participate in the 2016 summer games and end up in Springfield.
Members: Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, Deron Williams, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kevin Love
Anthony and Griffin will likely have the same problem with their resume as neither is a great (or willing)
defender, so their offensive excellence is just the siren song of a zero-sum game. Despite Griffin’s career
still being in its infancy, it will likely take a championship for either of these two to see Springfield. Though Dominique Wilkins' inclusion for both his scoring and soaring dunks could spark hope for these two.
Williams was once right on par with Chris Paul, but then Paul dragged flawed teams to unexpected heights while Williams' game has seemed to plateau. Bosh’s decision to join the Big 3 in Miami coincided with a noticeable drop in production. A move out of Miami might boost his career enough to merit consideration. Aldridge, however, needs to be the focal point on a championship team or see a run of All-Star appearances stretch into his mid-30s to likely be taken seriously.
Love seems destined to pile up ungodly rebounding and scoring numbers. The emergence of Ricky Rubio will only help bolster his stats going forward. If wins come with it, he could turn out to be a no-brainer choice. Westbrook is one the game's best athletes and is putting forth incredible production on a team that should compete for championships year in and year out; a recipe for the Hall if there ever was one.
Best bets: Westbrook, Love and Griffin
The Young and the Hopeful
While it's nearly impossible to predict, these players have the ability to great if they can harness their immense potential.
Members: Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins
With the elder statesmen of this group at Cousins (just 21 years old), these three aren’t even locks for the team in 2016. Safe to say, it's nearly impossible to project any of them being members of the
Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame one day. But there is no doubt that all three have the potential to dominating players.
The lanky Davis could go on to have a Kevin Garnett-type of career: Dominant defensively with the ability clean the glass and knock down unblockable jumpers from all over on the other end of the floor. Irving is
coming off a phenomenal rookie season that nearly saw him become an All-Star. The fact that his game
reminds many of Chris Paul only helps his cause.
Cousins, meanwhile, is an unfair combination of size, mobility and skill. The only thing seemingly holding him back from a run of All-Star selections is his attitude and focus. If he ever figures that out, there is no
doubt he will be one of the better players in the league for a long time.
Best Bet: Irving
While the conclusion is admittedly speculative at best, it's still possible that while this group could never have the same impact as the Dream Team, it could still have as many Hall of Famers.