By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
Magic Johnson was my favorite player growing up. Since I lived in a city without an NBA team, I naturally latched myself onto the Lakers bandwagon
Because I'm a fan of the Lakers, Kobe Bryant is one of my favorite players. He's the biggest reasons why the Lakers have won five titles since 2000. He's definitely a Top 10 player of all-time if you're honest with yourselves about the game of basketball.
However, I have to disagree with Kobe when it comes to his comments about how the 2012 version of the United States Olympic team could be the legendary 1992 Dream Team.
It's hard to blame Kobe for making the comments. Any true winner does not concede defeat and does not acknowledge that his team would lose under any circumstances.
Kobe is a winner, but on this argument, he's wrong.
The "Dream Team" would handle this year's Olympic by at least 15 points.
1. Tougher Era - First, it's always tough comparing two teams, 20 years a part. There are rule changes and talent levels that define an era. The Dream Team gets the edge here because the late 1980's and early 1990's might be the best era of basketball ever. On top of that, you had more defensive-friendly rules. For example, the "Bad Boys" from Detroit would not be tolerated in 2012. Those Pistons teams were allowed to hack and play dirty. The current NBA has rules that are more friendly to stars. I honestly think Michael Jordan would average 40 points if he was in his prime in 2012. The era of obsessive flagrant foul calls and the hand-checking rules would allow Jordan (and the rest of his Dream Team teammates) to thrive even more.
2. Michael Jordan - Speaking of Jordan, the best player ever was in the prime of his career and I think that has to count for something. Jordan was also the best two-way player ever and I think he would limit the damage done by a 34-year-old Kobe Bryant. No one on this year's team is good enough defensively to shut down Jordan, either.
3. Magic Johnson wasn't an old guy who was just there for fun - Sure, Larry Bird was dealing with injuries and in reality, he probably wasn't a great roster option. He deserved it though after helping save the NBA with Magic and later on, Jordan. Still, because of Bird's condition, everyone assumes Magic was just there for the ride. That's not really the case. In the 1991 NBA Playoffs, Magic averaged 21.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 12.6 assists a game. In the 1992 All-Star Game, he was the MVP. Maybe he wasn't "Showtime Magic," but 1991 Magic also wasn't 1995-96 Magic, the one that came off the bench in a comeback attempt. Johnson, the 6'9" point guard who could see over the defense, was still dishing out assists with the best of them. An educated argument could be made that Magic was still the second best player in the world. Magic would have been a brutal match-up for this year's team to deal with.
4. The Dream Team destroys the 2012 team inside - This point has been made roughly 3,208 times this week, but it's worth pointing out a 3,209th time. The Dream Team had Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. In comparison, the 2012 team has Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis. Yeah, I'll take the Dream Team to dominate the paint with ease. Robinson and Ewing are two of my top ten centers ever and Barkley and Malone should be in any top five list of all-time great power forwards.
5. Scottie Pippen's defense - Need to limit the damage Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant can inflict on you from the perimeter? A good solution - put one of the single-best perimeter defenders of all-time on them. Pippen's defense was awesome and on a team that had plenty of offense already in Jordan, Magic, Clyde Drexler and the big forwards and centers inside, Pippen can sacrifice some of his offense to play top-notch defense. Anthony and Durant probably wouldn't be shutdown, of course. However, I have a feeling someone like Pippen could contain one of them.
6. Kobe's not in his prime - Again, I love Kobe. I'm not ready for him to retire and he still has two or three good years left, in my opinion. But he's not the 21-year-old Kobe Bryant who put up 93 points in back-to-back playoff games in 2001. He's not the Kobe who scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. I think the only chance the 2012 team would have of winning is if Kobe Bryant was in his prime - and I don't think that's good enough.
7. The competitiveness of Jordan, Magic, Barkley and the rest of the Dream Team - My favorite part of this argument this week was how quick Jordan, Magic and the rest of the legends from that team responded to Kobe's remarks. Jordan reportedly laughed at the assertion. Magic dismissed it within 24 hours and Barkley mocked Kobe, saying only three players from this year's squad could make the Dream Team. The fact LeBron James and other players (Dwight Howard) are seeking to create "Big 3's" all over the NBA displays the lack of competitiveness this generation's players have compared to Jordan's. Jordan, Magic and Bird wanted to beat each others brains in - they were incredible competitors. I think the leaders of the 1992 team had more will to win collectively than this year's bunch. The fact that most of the 1992 team's leaders responded quickly as they did demonstrates how their competitive juices flow.