‘Inside The Vault’ looks back at moments in history which shook the sporting landscape.
In this edition, we revisit the USA’s 1992 Olympic winning basketball team, nicknamed “The Dream Team”.
On this day in 1992, the USA Olympic basketball team claimed gold in Barcelona.
The USA crushed Croatia in the final, winning 117-85 after reaching the decider in emphatic fashion.
However, it was the US team that was more memorable than the final itself.
This team of all-time greats remains the greatest basketball team in history, and has even been described in some quarters as the greatest sports team of all time.
For the first time, the US were allowed to send active players from the National Basketball Association (NBA) to the Olympics following the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) rule change.
Before 1992, the nation could only field amateur players, but complained that the USSR were using loopholes to allow professional players to compete.
Four years earlier, the usually dominant USA had finished third, being forced to settle for bronze as the USSR won gold.
However, as a result of the rule changes ahead of the 1992 Games, the USA brought some of the NBA’s biggest names to Spain, with Coach Chuck Daly brought in to manage them.
“It was like Elvis and the Beatles put together,” Daly would later say.
“Traveling with the Dream Team was like traveling with 12 rock stars. That’s all I can compare it to.”
The mouth-watering squad consisted of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (Chicago Bulls), Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Lakers), Larry Bird (Boston Celtics), John Stockton and Karl Malone (Utah Jazz), Patrick Ewing (New York Knicks), Chris Mullin (Golden State Warriors), David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs), Charles Barkley (Philadelphia 76ers), and Christian Laettner (Duke University).11 of those 12 players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, with Laettner the sole amateur player to make the squad.
Laettner is the only player in the squad not to be inducted into the Hall od Fame, but he is a member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
“The Dream Team” cruised through the Tournament of the Americas – their lowest margin of victory was 41 points – qualifying for Barcelona with relative ease.
Before the tournament itself, Daly set up a full internal match between the players, an infamous event which is now dubbed “greatest game that nobody ever saw”.
Michael Jordan described it as the best game he’d ever played in.
Jordan was outstanding in Barcelona, scoring 119 points in total, and 22 in the final against Croatia.
The USA blitzed their way through the Games, winning by an average of 43.8 points per game en route to an 8-0 record.
Angola, Croatia, Puerto Rico, Germany, Brazil, Spain, Commonwealth of Independent States and Lithuania were all put to the sword on “The Dream Team’s” path to the final.
Jordan, Johnson and company delighted basketball fans around the world with some of the greatest basketball ever televised, inspiring a new generation of basketball stars across the globe. They were a sheer phenomenon on and off the court.
They scored 110+ points in every game bar the final (103), and Croatia and Puerto Rico were the only countries to keep the deficit under 40 points.
In 2010, the 1992 Dream Team was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a team.
Three members of the team – Barkley, Malone, and Stockton – would go on to win another Olympic gold medal four years later in Atlanta.
The US have largely continued to dominate basketball at the Olympics, but no subsequent team – while many have been fantastic – have been as impactful or as magical at the original Dream Team.
You can’t beat perfection.