USA Basketball’s 2014 FIBA World Cup squad certainly isn’t its best. Their dominance in Spain notwithstanding, the Americans pale in comparison to previous editions of Team USA like the original Dream Team and the 2008 Olympic team. USAB officials and even the players would surely admit as much, too; the late-stage departures of stars like Kevin Durant and scheduled absence of LeBron James and company makes that humbling reality obvious.
The NBA’s old-guard, though, is a bit more stubborn when it comes to reputation and competition. In Bleacher Report’s must-read oral profile of “Dream Team II,” Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins said that America’s 1994 World Championships team is on par with any other iterations of Team USA.
DOMINIQUE WILKINS (Boston Celtics, forward, 34): I would have been on the original Dream Team, I’m sure of it. But I was dealing with Achilles problems around then. So they invited me on Dream Team II to be the vet, one of the statesmen with Joe. They put together a hell of a team. We knew going in that we were gonna beat everyone by 20—at least. Let me tell you: That Dream Team II could play with any of the other Dream Teams.
Keep dreaming, ‘Nique.
Dream Team II absolutely dominated the competition in Canada, finishing with a flair by smashing Russia 137-91 in the gold medal game. However, irrespective of point differential – which is a crucial consideration given the incredible strides international teams have made since 1992 – Wilkins’ contention that his team could compete with other champions doesn’t hold water.
Dream Team II simply lacked the upper-echelon talent of American groups assembled in 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. No member of the original Dream Team played in 1994, leaving Reggie Miller, Mark Price, and young big men Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Shawn Kemp, and Larry Johnson as the team’s core. That’s a list littered with Hall-of-Famers and All-Stars, obviously, but its names bely their level of talent at the time – especially compared to other top U.S. squads.
There was no prime Michael Jordan, prime Hakeem Olajuwon, prime Kobe Bryant, or prime LeBron James on Dream Team II, let alone other fully-realized talents like Charles Barkley, Gary Payton, Dwyane Wade, or Kevin Durant. Miller was a fantastic player, but not on the level of those previously mentioned. And while O’Neal certainly did reach those exalted heights, he was a basketball baby in 1994, just 22 years-old and a two-year NBA veteran.
Wilkins is right that his team was stacked. There’s an argument to be made, for instance, that Dream Team II’s frontcourt was just as good as any other USA Basketball has compiled. But ‘Nique wears his bias a bit too proudly in saying that 1994’s Team USA could compete with any other.
Do you agree with Wilkins?
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