On this day 26 years ago, the United States announced its basketball team roster for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Tired of taking L’s in international play, this would be the first team of pro players (except for Christian Laettner, who was an All-American at Duke) to suit up in Olympic competition for the red, white and blue.
The team, which is widely considered to be the greatest collection of hoops talent of all time had one glaring omission. Pistons guard Isaiah Thomas was undoubtedly one of the best PG’s in the game, on one of the best teams, but was left off the team because Michael Jordan didn’t want to play with him.
In the 2012 Dream Team documentary, the Robin to MJ’s Batman, Scottie Pippen said, “Isiah was the general. He was the guy who would yap at his teammates and say, ‘Kick them on their [rear]. Do whatever you have to do.’ No, I didn’t want him on the Dream Team.”
The Pistons and Bulls rivalry of the 80’s and 90’s was a heated, one, but the Bad Boy’s rough play was not the sole reason that the original Isaiah Thomas was left off of the roster. In the same documentary, Former NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said Thomas was excluded partly because he and his teammates left the court prematurely after the 1991 Bulls-Pistons playoff series.
“We were picking a group just after the Pistons had been eliminated by the Bulls,” Granik said. “It was very bad timing for Isiah. Everyone had that impression in their mind, the picture of Isiah walking off the court.”
The Thomas snub definitely didn’t stop the show. The first glimpse of the Dream Team was in the Tournament of the Americas, which the U.S.A. easily won. They scored 100 points in each of the six games, including an Olympic-high 136 points in the team’s very first game against Cuba, and won by an average margin of 51.5 points.
There is a piece of Dream Team history that people aren’t aware of, the Dream Team actually LOST a game. The opponent? A bunch of college kids.
That’s right, a team consisting of Grant Hill, Penny Hardaway and Chris Webber was assembled for the Dream Team to scrimmage and beat up on to warm up for their overseas competition. However, one scrimmage didn’t go their way. The Collegians defeated the almighty Dream Team 62-54. “These young kids were killing us,” Scottie Pippen said in a documentary made about the loss.
Don’t look too much into it, though. While the Collegians got their earned bragging rights, Michael Jordan barely played, head coach Chuck Daly made zero adjustments, and he just wanted to show his team that they could lose. Well, it worked. They never lost again, and ran the scrimmage team out of the gym the next time they played.
Although NBA players competing in international competitions is the norm at this point, this team is special, not only because they were first, but also because they are unequivocally the best.