Quick diversion into the world of sports this morning . . .
I didn’t stay up to watch the gold medal basketball game Sunday, but taped it and watched it first thing when I woke up Sunday. Yup, almost cried. It’s weird to some people how much I care about USA Basketball, I just do.
First thought for everyone is Dream Team. You’d be right. And if you took the careers of the Dream Team against the careers of the Redeem Team, you’d still be right.
But if both teams played at the time of their Olympic wins, it’s close. Darn close:
PG: Magic vs. Jason Kidd. Both were far past their prime, but Kidd is in way better shape than Magic was. Chris Paul/Deron Williams both are more multi-dimensional and better players right now than John Stockton. EDGE: Redeem Team.
SG: Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant. This was Jordan in his professional and personal prime. There wasn’t a bigger star than him. Kobe is on his way, and even started the talk last year. But he can’t even dream right now of eclipsing Jordan. Dwayne Wade may have been USA’s MVP, playing like that knee never bothered him in the first place. Chris Mullin and Michael Redd were there for the same purpose — shoot the lights out if we need you. Didn’t need them in either case. Clyde Drexler was borderline useless at this point in his career. EDGE: Surprisingly even.
SF: Larry Bird vs. Lebron James. This is what every Celtics fan doesn’t wanna hear: Bird was toast at this point and was playing out of position. He was a shell who made this team out of respect, not ability. He was getting back treatments every time he went to the bench and it was just sad. Lebron just jumped into the upper stratosphere with the best two-week performance of his career. Scottie Pippen was brought for defense, but we never needed it, except for when he beat up Toni Kukoc for the sheer sport of it. Tayshaun Prince proved he was the picture-perfect 10th man for this team and a tailor-made international player. EDGE: Redeem Team.
PF: Charles Barkley vs. Carmelo Anthony. With the way international basketball is these days, you don’t need two big men, just one. We found that out the hard way in 2004 (and 2002 and 2006). So ‘Melo sucked it up and played out of position for two weeks just so he could start. I’m not a Melo fan, I don’t think he does anything other than score. But if you were looking for a glue guy the last two weeks, it was him. Barkley had started the downside of his career and almost started an international incident when he nearly knocked out an Angolan dude. But he was still better. And Karl Malone was light years ahead of Carlos Boozer. Token Christian Laettner made the team as USA Basketball’s revenge to Shaq for not playing the 2000 Goodwill Games or World Championships. EDGE: Dream Team.
C: Dwight Howard vs. Patrick Ewing. Ewing is close to being the most overrated player in NBA history. Dwight Howard should be starting his senior year in college and is just as good as Ewing was at this point in his career when Ewing’s knees were really keeping him from getting up and down the floor with any semblance of regularity. The most even matchup of the entire battle here is at back-up center. David Robinson was in the prime of his career and was playing his best basketball. Chris Bosh just showed the world he knows how to play defense, and may have just got himself into the top 5 of the conversation “If I’m going to start an NBA franchise, who do I start it with?” EDGE: Redeem Team.
Coach: This is where it gets out of hand. Chuck Daly was one of the best X-and-O guys ever and the absolute perfect guy to coach the Dream Team. He was like a 29-year gym teacher a week short of retirement — roll out the balls and let ‘em play. He never called a timeout, and didn’t need to. This isn’t my UNC bias, but the one thing I thought that could screw up this Redeem Team was Coach K getting in the way of himself and the team. He got outcoached in the World Championships two years ago, but held his own here. He just can’t match up with Daly. BIG EDGE: Dream Team.
So here we are stuck at 3-2-1 Redeem Team. But in the end, you have to believe if these two teams marched out on the court against each other playing FIBA rules, Dream Team wins when Jordan puts the team on his back, Kobe tried to outplay Jordan by himself and the shots don’t fall for the Redeem Team. Without that first-half 3-pt barrage on Sunday, I’m not sure if the Redeem Team pulls out the gold medal.
WINNER: Dream Team, 123-117.