The 10 Most Important Things We Learned From ‘The Dream Team’

By: 06.14.12

5. The San Diego and Monte Carlo tapes were incredible.

I can’t rank this much higher because we knew going in the footage from these scrimmages would be the best, period, of the whole thing. However, seeing Penny Hardaway glide in for the effortless dunk in San Diego, Barkley dunk over Karl Malone and Magic going nuts while playing squad leader in the Olympic tune-up were fascinating. If I could rewatch just two parts over again, it’d be those two.

4. MJ the populist.

I don’t think the clips of Jordan touring Barcelona at 6:30 a.m. were spontaneous. The footage of MJ eating breakfast with star-struck strangers and touring Barcelona’s Olympic stadium was surprising because it showed Jordan at arguably his least competitive of the whole trip. This was the only time we saw MJ not trying to take someone’s money playing some variation of a game. It looked like something the film crew had set up ahead of time — oh, he just happened to walk under his Nike poster that’s the size of a building? — but it still caught my attention for how relaxed he was.

3. No one could pick John Stockton out of a crowd.

Hands down, one of my favorite moments of the entire thing was about the Jazz’s Hall of Fame point walking around Barcelona unobstructed. He was just your average white dad in green, shimmering shorts. If he and Bobby Hurley had been walking around together, people would have thought it was a picture-perfect father-and-son Olympic trip. Now, would I know the Spanish national soccer team’s best point guard equivalent if he walked past me on a street? Outside of Cesc Fabregas, I wouldn’t put money on it. I’m not saying people should be ashamed of letting a top-3 point guard of all-time walk by but … actually to that girl in the Dream Team shirt and the guy in the Uncle Sam get-up, I am blaming them.

2. Whatever Charles Barkley did, he came out like a bully against Angola.

The memory of the Angola elbow from Chuck stood out because of how vivid it still is. He’s still adamant about one thing, saying it was instigated by Herlander Coimbra, a player the New York Times described at the time as:

a 174-pound economics student from a third-world, war-torn nation who has spent many a Wednesday night back home in Luanda searching the television dial in search of his favorite forward from the National Basketball Association.

I don’t remember the Dream Team when it happened (something about me being 5) so I can’t know personally the depth of the controversy. The documentary didn’t pull a punch though about how bad Chuck looked afterward. And he still doesn’t quite get that taking anything out on poor Angola, while up 38-7, is still considered uncouth.

1. Isiah Thomas was vilified.

While I’d read before watching that Thomas would be shredded by the first 15 minutes of the documentary, I was still surprised by the certainty the characters involved spoke about not wanting him on the team.

Time can heal wounds, but from Rod Thorn to Jordan, there was no denying he wasn’t wanted. I went back and forth on how much the decision from USA basketball higher-ups was because of basketball reasons (too much hate for any non-Pistons), or because of his cutthroat reputation (after all, Barkley had a stigma, too). MJ may say the decision was over his head, but catering to him had to be a factor.

Isiah’s response via Twitter today:


“Today, like all Americans, I congratulate the Dream Team on their anniversary. I am proud of my career in the NBA and have fond memories of going head to head with all the members of the Team. I can’t speak to the selection process as I wasn’t involved. But 20 years later, their gold medal is still a momentous achievement.”

What did you take away from the documentary?

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