Thursday Feb 02, 2023

The Best Game Nobody Saw

The Dream Team 1992

Summer of 1992 and the Dream Team was getting ready for its date with history in Barcelona. They trained normally in Monte Carlo, with many luxuries and relaxation, because they knew they had no rivals, but they kept their seriousness.

An unparalleled adventure with the best players of the moment and probably of history. Twelve legendary basketball players faced each other in a game that has been described as the best game anyone has ever seen.

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“All you got now”.

The Dream Team was formed after much controversy, as Olympic basketball before 1992 was totally amateur. The Olympic Committee, in an effort to make the sport more spectacular, authorized the federations to use professional players.

This opened the door to the NBA, where the best players in the world play. Obviously, the controversy was that the United States would put together an invincible team because at that time the generation they had was extraordinary.

It was Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly who was given the task of assembling the team that would compete for gold in Barcelona. His selection was earth-shattering. David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, and Charles Barkley plus two veterans who would see their farewell in the best team in the world. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

The jewel in the crown was Michael Jordan, who at first was not so convinced about giving up his summer to go and play, but when he saw the team they put together and that history could be made, he decided to go as the symbol, not only of the team but also of the country.

Before leaving for Europe they played against a collegiate team, and to their surprise, the team that was thought to be unbeatable was defeated by the youngsters. They were baffled. But Chuck Daly at the time told them that they had to take everything seriously because this could happen.

The coach planned this defeat because he made many changes and did not use Michael Jordan. In the rematch, the college boys could never get past the superstars, who now had “His Airness” for the whole game.

So they went to the tournament of the Americas, as a qualifier for the Olympics, and had no problem with any opponent. Differences of more than 40 points, and the team looked like they were enjoying themselves. Obviously, they qualified for Barcelona as champions of the continent and as the favorites for the gold medal.

They held a camp in Monte Carlo where the players were enjoying the summer at the casinos and beaches, many brought their families, but they knew they had to be committed as any slip-up could cost them and would be considered the biggest failure in the history of sports.

In one practice, Chuck Daly divided the team. Jordan had his and Magic had his. Before that, the workouts were intense, but with a lot of respect and caution. The coach’s words surprised everyone. “All you got now.”

He took off the chains and inside the court, it was known that sparks were going to fly because of the competitive level and the nature of everyone, especially Jordan. 

The best game in the world

The game started with Magic’s team, which consisted of Johnson, with Barkley, Robinson, Mullin, and Laettner dominating Jordan’s team, which included Malone, Ewing, Pippen, and Bird. 

There was a lot of competition, players wanted to prove they were better than their opponent, and it looked like an NBA Finals game. The intensity never stopped, few fouls, and a truly pure game.

Magic decided to add spice to the game and approached Jordan to tell him “If you don’t turn on the Air Jordans, we’re going to beat you” knowing MJ’s competitive nature maybe it wasn’t the best idea.

At that point, the Chicago Bulls guard began to dominate on the court. No one could stop him. There is a play that will go down in history as one of the best baskets anyone ever saw because it was so spectacular and because at that moment Johnson realized that the new boss of the NBA was Jordan.

Michael took the ball near the box, with the inertia he had from the run he jumped in front of David Robinson who jumped to block the possible shot, MJ floated and “waited” for Robinson to come down, while he did a 360 to dunk the ball. Jordan could fly.

The gymnasium in Monte Carlo fell silent. No one could believe what they were seeing, Jordan had just broken the laws of physics by scoring two impossible points, in a practice. Everyone knew that Michael was impressive, but at that moment they realized that there were no impossibles for him and that there was a human who could float.

The score? Jordan 40 – 36 Magic, but that was the less important thing. Each of the participants knew that they had experienced the best game of their lives, away from the spotlight, away from the press. Just for the pleasure of playing.

In the end, there was silence, no one wanted to talk, and no one wanted to break the harmony of the group with a joke or a bad remark when they got on the bus on their way back. The silence turned to laughter when Barkley said “What a game boys”.

Pure gold

Obviously, this game brought the team together even more as they had been so far outnumbered in the Olympic tournament. It was all laughter and fun. It was a group of friends playing, like when you play with your friends on Sundays, for them, it was like that.

They had no pressure and every game they did extraordinary things, Jordan did not stop scoring, Pippen looked like few others, Malone was dominant, Barkley played at ease, and when the substitutes came in the party continued.

The gold medal was the least of it, they were happy. This Medal was truly pure. A game between friends that inspired everyone. 

There is no athlete who does not remember the Dream Team, but the game that nobody saw, strangely enough, nobody can forget. 

Would you have liked to see it?

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