Dream Team vs. Redeem Team – Who Wins and Why?
The 2012 Olympic Games, which is held in London, is a few days underway. It has been 20 years since the USA Men’s Basketball “Dream Team” played in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. Due to it being two decades since the era of the Dream Team, there has been some talks on which team would take a win, in a scrimmage, between the 1992 Dream Team and this year’s 2012 USA Men’s Team. Though this year’s 2012 team is more comparable to the Dream Team, this piece is a presentation to compare the 2008 USA Men’s Basketball “Redeem Team.”
The controversy is basically, who would win between the two teams? Obviously if they played now, the Redeem Team would win because they’re the younger ones. Basically, we take an in-depth look at history, match-ups, and on-court offense and defense advantages/disadvantages.
Team USA vs. International Hoops
There is no question the two teams were great in their own respects. Historically, the Dream Team had 11 individual Hall of Famers (not including HoF as a whole team) who all played together. The Dream Team is arguably the most dominant team that has ever been assembled in all of sports history. The Redeem Team was stacked with their own 11 NBA All-Stars, a couple MVPs, and a Hall of Fame coach. Numerically, the Dream Team collected 116 All-Star appearances, 15 MVPs, and 23 NBA Championships. The Redeem Team, at the time, had 35 All-Star appearances, 2 MVPs, and 5 NBA Championships. The Dream Team clearly had the advantage here.
With the talent on both teams, the two squads did not fail in any single game, both going undefeated in their quest for the ultimate goal, the Gold medal. In the 1992 Olympic Games, the Dream Team went 8-0. In their first match-up, they played Angola and defeated them 116-48, which led to a 68-point differential. In their second game, they beat Croatia by 33, 103-70. In their last three games before the tournament round, the Dream Team racked up wins against Germany, Brazil, and Spain. The Dream Team killed each of them by 43, 44, and 41, respectively. In the tournament round, they faced Puerto Rico. The Puerto Ricans did not have a chance as they lost by 38. They made Lithuania look like a job by blowing them out 127-76 in their second game. Finally, in the Gold medal match, the Dream Team experienced their lowest blowout of the Olympics, 117-85, which was a 32-point differential.
The Redeem Team did their fair share of what some people could say are blowouts. The Redeem Team beat China by 31, 101-70. Their second match-up was against Angola and beat them by 21, 97-76. They had their way with Greece, taking them out by 23, 92-69. The team had to face Spain and Germany in their final preliminary match-ups. The Redeem Team embarrassed both Spain and Germany, beating them by 37 and 49, respectively. The Redeem Team had an easy match-up in the first round of the tournament as they faced Australia. It was easy because they knocked out Australia by 31, 116-85. They faced quite a challenge against Argentina in the second round, but they prospered with a 20-point win, 101-81. The Gold medal match was the biggest challenge of them all as they faced Spain. In the preliminary round, the United States demolished Rubio, Gasol and the Spanish National Team by 37, but in the Gold medal match, the Redeem Team only won the Gold by 11 points, 118-107.
The Redeem Team did not have as many blowouts, nor were their blowouts as large as what the Dream Team accomplished, but there is only one logic to it. International basketball was not as developed (aside from Sarunas Marciulionis and Tony Kukoc) as they were in 2008 than in 1992. The level of international basketball was considered at mid-class level. The reason why there are so many great international players throughout the past years was because of the Dream Team. That 1992 team was the reason why players all over the world, especially in Europe, wanted to increase their skill level in the game of hoops. Had there been a higher level of competition, the Dream Team’s blowouts probably would have not been as dominating.
1992 Dream Team vs. 2008 Redeem Team Match-ups
Magic Johnson > Jason Kidd
There is no debate here. Yes, Jason Kidd is one of the best point guards to have ever played the game and his accolades are quite nice, but it is Magic who has the clear advantage here. Magic had the size advantage, first and foremost, and it gave him the chance to have a better court-vision, which led to better passing. Not to mention, Jason Kidd was given limited playing time due to age and Coach K had the advantage of using his young guns.
Michael Jordan > Kobe Bryant
Michael Jordan was entering his prime, whereas Kobe Bryant, who just came off an MVP season, was already peaking. These two are very comparable, but the match-up clearly belongs to the Michael Jordan who was handed the “NBA torch” by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson during a Dream Team practice scrimmage. Kobe would have an inch to Jordan, but let’s face it; Michael would dance around Kobe and hit jumpers like they were nothing.
John Stockton < Chris Paul
The two smallest players on each team going at it, huh. In this match-up, the advantage is given to Chris Paul. The two can run a great pick-and-roll game, but Chris Paul is the better offensive player in terms of aggressiveness and finishing touch to the basket. Paul also has the advantage on the much cleaner jumper, both from mid-range and beyond the arc. To top it off, Chris Paul has a better or more aggressive defense, I should say, than John Stockton. Yes, I cannot disregard Stockton as being the NBA’s all-time leader in steals, but it’s Chris Paul’s hustle that outweighs Stockton’s defense.
Clyde Drexler < Dwyane Wade
Clyde Drexler had a great career in the NBA and was a greatly skilled player. However, if he was to be matched up with Dwyane Wade, Drexler would have had a hard time keeping up with Wade and his athleticism. Wade was the younger and quicker player and Wade’s scoring, assisting, rebounding, and defense was better compared to Drexler’s, thus giving this match-up to the current two-time NBA champion and former Finals MVP, Dwyane Wade.
Scottie Pippen > Deron Williams
This is the unfair match-up between the two teams. Deron Williams is a great player and one of the elite point guards in the NBA, but Pippen would have locked him down on defense. Pippen would also be running circles around Deron on offense. With Pippen’s defense, Deron would be shut down and with the help of his Dream Teammates, Pippen would take the size advantage and probably would score loads over Deron.
Larry Bird > Michael Redd
I cannot put an argument on this one. Larry Bird would definitely do work on both ends of the floor over Michael Redd. The good thing about Redd was, in a regulation FIBA court, the three-point line was much closer, and allowed for easier jumpers. But hey, let’s not forget about Larry Legend who can drain the three-pointers better than Redd could ever have. This match-up is dead, even if Larry had back problems.
Charles Barkley < LeBron James
LeBron is the better player here. LeBron was very explosive, then. His defense would also have the potential to put Barkley’s confidence at a low. Yes, Barkley had a little jumper and he worked the paint, but LeBron’s game is by far the better game between the two.
Karl Malone > Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer was a pretty good player when he still had Deron Williams running the point. Their pick-and-roll was similar to Stockton and Malone’s, but The Mailman delivered in each and every game. Malone had great post moves and would have his way defending Carlos Boozer. Though many have compared the two, when Boozer was a Jazz, the two players cannot be compared as Malone has the better advantage on both offense and defense.
Chris Mullin < Carmelo Anthony
This is a tough one, statistically. Carmelo and Mullin are statistically very similar, but at this point in the discussion, the Redeem Team need help in the scoring column. Though these two are proven scorers, Carmelo has the better scorer’s mentality, but that is not his only advantage over the member of Run TMC. Since playing for USA Basketball, Carmelo has definitely improved his post-game due to his size, which matches up with the international size and style-play. Carmelo would have the greater advantage in rebounds and much easier scoring by working the post, close to the basket.
Christian Laettner < Tayshaun Prince
These two played very small roles on their teams, but since we are talking about one-on-one match-ups, it is Tayshaun Prince who wins this duel. Let’s not forget, like Anthony Davis, who is playing as the “college kid” on this year’s Team USA, Laettner is the young man on the bench not many cared for. Prince, by 2008, has already won a championship and was already leading a fallen Detroit Pistons team, while Laettner did not even play a single NBA game, yet. Not too much to question about here, as Tayshaun Prince, to many, is having the better career. Is it even debatable that Laettner would take this one-on-one against Prince? It is safe to doubt.
Patrick Ewing < Dwight Howard
This match-up is another close one. Patrick Ewing has the scoring advantage, as he was a big man that scored in the 20s since his rookie season. Ewing also has the block, steals, and assists advantage, only beating Dwight by a close margin. The only advantage Dwight has is his rebounding. Dwight can grab the boards as easy as Michael Jordan’s mid-range jumpers. Place these two against each other and the match-up would have to go to Dwight. Yes, it is a questionable choice and one that could be controversial, but if Dwight was there to grab the rebounds, his current assistant coach would suffer down on the block against him.
David Robinson > Chris Bosh
The Admiral has the advantage, without a question, without a doubt, without a without. Bosh is not a true big man, because he plays like he’s a small forward. David Robinson would have his way with Bosh in the paint. Robinson was not a shabby defender, either, so he would definitely take Bosh. Yes, Bosh would have his moments, but Robinson would dominate in a full game over the former Toronto Raptors star.
In summation, according to these analyses, the Dream Team and the Redeem Team are equal in match-up. The question still stays, who wins between the two as a whole team? Let’s take a closer look at the on-court physicality between the two teams.
Quite a few members of the Redeem Team failed together when playing with each other on the 2004 Bronze medal team, during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. For one, the Dream Team did not have any experience against these international teams, yet, they did not need any of the experience. Which leads to the second point – international hoops, like mentioned earlier, was not as developed in 1992 than it was in the 2000s, especially by 2004 through 2008. How many players in the NBA were from places other than the United States? The 2008 Spanish National Team probably had more NBA players on the squad than the 1992 Olympic international players combined, sarcastically or not.
Winner: Redeem Team
The Dream Team had some trouble learning how to play together from the get-go. Like mentioned earlier, some members of the Redeem Team already played together. The Redeem Team was the younger team and had more time to mesh. If they were to go head-to-head from day one of team assembly, the Redeem Team would have the more fluid offense than the Dream Team.
Winner: Redeem Team
The Dream Team, no question, had a collection of stars that played some elite defense. Talk about Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen; their lockdown defense would have hurt the Redeem Team a huge deal. Going down to the post, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, and David Robinson would most definitely protect the basket and clog the paint. Add in the all-time leader in steals in John Stockton, and there goes a charging offense.
Winner: Dream Team
The Dream Team were composed of some players that were nearing the end of their careers, which made them produce better in the half-court than the fast break, full court offense. The Redeem Team had LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and a still-very-mobile Kobe Bryant who would have ran past their defenders to grab the easy basket at the other end of the floor.
Winner: Redeem Team
The Redeem Team would play a better running game, but with Jordan, Pippen, Magic, and the big men, the Dream Team would have a better chance at controlling the pace and taking advantage of the Redeem Team in a half-court setting. The movement of the Dream Team on offense would dominate over the defense of the Redeem Team. With Robinson, Malone, and Ewing, the Dream Team would just have to rely on dishing the ball in the post and scoring some easy baskets.
Winner: Dream Team
The perimeter would belong to the Redeem Team. Michael Jordan would arguably beat any member of the Redeem Team, but in a one-on-one game. Deron Williams and Chris Paul could shoot the ball, while having the option to throw some good passes. Michael Redd and Tayshaun Prince had the ability to knock down open shots, due to a closer look at the basket. Dwyane Wade, Carmelo, and LeBron had great beyond the arc shooting, along with a decent mid-range game. Match-up an old Jason Kidd to shoot some jumpers against an injured-legged John Stockton and it’s over.
Winner: Redeem Team
There is no way, in Earth or in hell, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, and Dwight Howard could have beaten the best post players in NBA history. Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson, and even Charles Barkley would have killed the Redeem Team big men alone. The guards and small forwards would not even have to play. It does play a big part because games are won in the paint, of course, along with defense, but the Dream Team big men have defense as well.
Winner: Dream Team
If this was a running game, which the Redeem Team would have the advantage over was explained earlier, the Redeem Team would take the game. The overall physique of LeBron James would have been hell for the Dream Team. The Dream Team’s size, strength, speed, and agility would not match-up to the way the rest of the Redeem Team’s body was assembled.
Winner: Redeem Team
The Dream Team, during their days, was the best team that ever took the Olympic stage and probably the best team to have ever been put together. Statistically speaking, if the statistics of the Olympic runs between the Dream and Redeem Teams were put together, side by side, the Dream Team, of course, was the better team. The Dream Team demolished every team that was notched to face them, while the Redeem Team did not do as well. The Redeem Team had to face a tougher level of international basketball competition and they had the time to play together and get ready to become fluid on both ends of the floor, especially offensively.
The Dream Team have their advantages and the names, on paper, would be the winner between the two teams. But we all shall face it; all of the Dream Team’s advantages are in hindsight now. The Redeem Team would have played better as a team and their play would definitely be harder than what the Dream Team had to face with the “scrubbiest” international teams. The Dream Team also would not have been able to keep up in a transition game and many of the older players on the Dream Team would have had to play limited minutes. The only player, who needed limited minutes, if there was not so much talent on the team, was Jason Kidd. Otherwise, Michael Redd, Tayshaun Prince, and Carlos Boozer would have brought their youth and played more minutes than Larry Bird, John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, and even Christian Laettner.
The answer should now be clear; the Redeem Team would take the win, if an exhibition with the 1992 Dream Team could have taken place. The game can only be but a “dream.”
Happy 20th Anniversary to the 1992 Men’s National Basketball “Dream Team” and the best of the best of luck to the 2012 Men’s National Team who are ready to take the London stage for the 2012 Olympic Games.