With the Tokyo Olympic Games just around the corner, basketball takes the spotlight, with some of the NBA's brightest stars set to compete.
As Team USA looks to win its fourth-straight gold medal in Tokyo, we look back at some of the best squads ever assembled, but it got our NBA.com Staff thinking about which team really is the greatest of all time?
NBA.com's Benyam Kidane, Carlan Gay and Gilbert McGregor make their case to the jury.
Which is the greatest Team USA squad ever assembled?
Benyam Kidane (@BenyamKidane): What are we doing here? The greatest USA team has to be the 1992 Dream Team!
Why? It could well be the greatest sporting team ever assembled, let alone a basketball team.
The Dream Team featured 11 Hall of Famers, led by the world's biggest star at the time in Michael Jordan, flanked by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson - arguably three of the top five players in NBA history.
The collection of talent is simply unmatched. And while Bird and Johnson were at the tail end of their careers, the likes of Jordan, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Karl Malone were all very much in their primes.
It wasn't just the level of talent on this team, it was the way they did it. As the first team of professionals to represent the USA, they put on a show for the world, going 8-0 in Barcelona, winning those games by an average margin of 43.8 points per game, averaging 117.3 points per game, while only allowing 73.5 points per game.
Sure, some of that can be attributed to where the rest of the world stood in terms of their basketball talent, but I'm pretty sure you could drop the Dream Team into any Olympic tournament ever and the result is pretty much going to be the same.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I think we really need to establish something here. The Dream Team holds a special place in our hearts for a simple reason - it made the game we love global.
The 2012 U.S Olympic team gets remembered for the epic gold medal game between Spain and Team USA where Kobe had to silence the world, hitting the big clutch shot.
But let's be real, the 2008 Redeem team not only had the toughest task of the two teams, but they also had the longest journey to get back to prominence and they delivered.
After Team USA failed miserably (by their standards) in Athens in 2004, finishing the tournament with a bronze medal, they followed that up with another bronze at the 2006 World Cup in Japan. The world thought they had caught up to the basketball powerhouse and alarm bells were ringing off for America to reassert its dominance.
Team USA had to qualify for the Olympics through the Americas Championship the summer before in 2007 just to compete at the games in 2008. For the first time, they had to build a team instead of throwing a couple of All-Stars together. They did that and they won, re-establishing America's dominance in hoops in the process.
They didn't have the luxury of going to the games and having the opposing teams trying to get their autograph like the Dream Team did, and they didn't have the luxury of fear that teams had playing the U.S. in 2012 after the Redeem Team put things back in order. They had the hardest road in front of them and still dominated and delivered gold.
China, the host nation, was ranked 11th in the world and had Yao Ming at his peak. Spain was ranked 3rd in the world with a prime Pau Gasol leading the charge. Argentina was ranked 1st in the world and still in the middle of what is known as the Golden Age of Argentine basketball. Australia, Lithuania, Greece and Germany all ranked in the top 10 in the world rankings heading into the tournament. There were no easy games yet the U.S. made them all look easy.
Unfortunately, when we think of the Redeem Team, we think more of the beginning of the modern-day NBA where stars have teamed up to strengthen their chances at a ring and less about what they did in bringing the USA back to the top of the basketball mountain.
Put some respect on the Redeem Team's name.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I'm sorry, but the correct answer here is the 2012 United States Team.
Don't get me wrong, The Dream Team paved the way for later iterations to be possible, but they also paved the way for later teams to go above and beyond. That's especially the case for 2012, which is just downright scary from a talent standpoint.
For me, it starts with the Big 3 of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James … They had a Big 3 of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James!
I'll be transparent and add that at 18, the above photo may or may not have been my phone's wallpaper throughout the Olympic process, but it's iconic. Looking back at the 2011-12 All-NBA Teams, this Olympic team was comprised of four First Teamers in Bryant, Durant, James and Chris Paul.
At 23, Durant was coming off of his third straight scoring title, while James was both 2012 league MVP and Finals MVP, riding off the momentum of his first-ever NBA title. Paul had just led the league in steals (add All-Defensive First Team to his 2011-12 résumé) and, I mean, Kobe is Kobe.
The team also had two Second Teamers in Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook and two Third Teamers in Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, who was also the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.
New York Knicks Carmelo may have been All-NBA Third Team, but Olympic Melo is All-Time All-World First Team, without question. Let's not forget that 2012 is the year that Melo scored 37 points in 14 minutes. Come on.
As for the guys who weren't All-NBA, 23-year-old James Harden had just won Sixth Man of the Year, Andre Iguodala was coming off of the lone All-Star campaign of his career, Deron Williams was coming off of the final All-Star campaign of his career and 19-year-old Anthony Davis had just wrapped one of the most dominant seasons in NCAA history.
I say all that to say that aside from young AD, each member of the 2012 team was either entering their prime or in the midst of it, but the same can't be said for 1992, as Bird had played his final NBA game and Magic would be a few years away from returning to an NBA floor.
I'll admit that 1992 has the clear advantage on the inside, but I'm putting the trio of Kobe, LeBron and KD over anyone. Yes, even any trio that includes Jordan.
As for 2008's Redeem Team, 2012 just feels like a better version after making a few changes away from the likes of Boozer, Prince and Redd.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I came into this with an open mind, and while Benyam and Carlan both made strong arguments, Gil has me siding with the 2012 United States Team.
It's crazy to think that that team had four members of the All-NBA First Team members - Dwight Howard was the only First Teamer that season who didn't play for Team USA due to injury - plus two Second Teamers and two Third Teamers. Plus, prime Kobe, Durant and LeBron is one hell of a trio. I don't know how any team matches up with them.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): I think my pick would be the 1992 Dream Team. Across the floor, that squad had a phenomenal balance from guards to wings to big men.
Having said that, I believe it's a close call between them and the team that won gold at the 2012 London Olympics. For their era, Team USA in 2012 had exceptional floor balance between slashers, shooters and playmakers with just enough size with their big men to not give their opponents an advantage.
Juan Estévez (@JuanEstevez90): Although Carlan and Gil had good points in favor of the 2008 and 2012 teams, I still have to go with Benyam and the 1992 Dream Team.
It's true that the competition was probably lower compared to the teams USA faced in Beijing and London, but come on ... as Benyam said, we might be talking about the "greatest sporting team ever assembled."
The original Dream Team had arguably the best roster of all time, won their games by an average margin of over 40 points and again, as Benyam pointed out, they put on a show for the whole world. When we are talking about the greatest team, we need to keep in mind their impact and legacy. And at least in my mind, there's no doubt that in that regard, nothing has ever come close to that Barcelona squad.
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