Debating sports is a great thing. It helps sports fans to be open to different thoughts and opinions. It can also make us all look like a bunch of opinionated cave men.
Comparing athletes and teams from different eras is fun. Everyone wants to know what all-time greats lists would look like. Some people let video game simulations, which are at the mercy of computer geeks who think they know sports, decide which era is best. And while that may provide some interesting insight, the bottom line is that no one can ever know the answer when comparing players and teams that never played each other, or even played in the same decade.
This is why it is strange to me why the 1992 Dream Team vs. 2012 Olympic Team has caused such contentious debate. Debating what the result would be is fine, but for Michael Jordan to laugh at the notion that Kobe thinks his team could win, or for Charles Barkley to say only three members of this team would make the Dream Team, is out of line. It’s fine for Michael Wilbon to say that he certainly thinks the Dream Team would win, but to write an article so vehemently exalting ’92 over 2012 is a little strange.
But the people who say this year’s team would win are wrong, too, especially when basing the argument on the fact that today’s players are more athletic. Ice Cube, of all people, may have put it best when he said that the Dream Team played better basketball, but today’s players are more talented and athletic. And based on that, this year’s team could win a few games against the team of 1992.
If you want my opinion, the Dream Team would win 8 out of 10 games versus today’s team. However, today’s team, with Bynum, Howard and Wade instead of Harden, Iguodala, and Chandler, would defeat the Dream Team 6 out of 10 games.
But that’s not what this article is about. I’m not contending which team is better. Rather, I’m trying to illustrate how idiotic both sides of this argument are, especially considering what it is that we are debating: a matchup of two different eras that cannot be fairly compared.
ESPN made a list of the 25 players in today’s NFL who could have played in any era. The general response of readers was “No der, all of them. Today’s players are more talented and athletic.” And that’s true. Don Hutson, the inventor of the wide receiver position, couldn’t get open against most of today’s dimebacks. Nnamdi Asomugha would run circles around him: with a ruptured Achilles. Today’s players are more talented and athletic, and as they are, they would dominate the artifacts. There are, of course, exceptions, as I think today’s linebackers would have just as much trouble tackling Jim Brown as his contemporaries did.
But is that fair to the older players? What if they had the technology and fitness programs that today’s players have? What if they knew what a forward pass was? Think how good Otto Graham would have been if he could have played in a Bill Belichick system.
The same goes for basketball. Wilt Chamberlain was the most dominant player in a time when he didn’t face many seven footers. But is that really fair to him? Dwight Howard would make a mockery of George Mikan, but what if Mikan lived today?
Actually, it works for movies, too. Movies made today are generally better than those made before 2000, with better acting, special effects, and, often, material. However, there is a reason that you find the same movies at the top of every respectable list, with movies from 2000-present rarely making it into the top 25. The Godfather, Godfather Part II, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, and Gone with the Wind are always found somewhere near the top of the list even though they are all “old” movies. Are there some things that 3:10 to Yuma does better than The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly? Sure, a lot of things, actually, but no one is going to try to dispute the fact that The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is better. However, Yuma is actually itself an improvement on an original. The Godfather could be remade today, and no matter what you did you could not improve upon Coppola’s movie. By the same token, Rocky Balboa was a better movie than Rocky, but the original won Best Picture and is a classic, while the newer one is generally forgotten in the anthology.
See where I’m going with this?
It extends to all art forms. Literature, paintings, architecture, music, and so on. Is Shakespeare really the best author ever? And are The Beatles really the greatest band?
People who like the classics will scoff at contemporaries, while modernists will laugh at the old fogeys. Once someone is lifted to a high enough position, they won’t ever be removed (People get mad at you for just comparing LeBron to MJ)
So just to show you how ridiculous the argument about 1992 vs. 2012 is, let me take both sides of the spectrum and convince you both ways.
11 Hall of Famers, @#$%. That’s right, 11 of them. Additionally, they had the best player ever in his prime, as well as the best point guard ever. They beat teams by 45 points without even trying. Look at their frontline: David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, and Karl Malone would decimate Tyson Chandler. Not to mention that the rest of the 2012 team is just too small to compete with those guys. The second best point guard on the team, John Stockton, is the all-time leader in steals and assists! He and Magic could dictate the game on their own terms. So what would today’s team take away? Maybe they could double MJ all game, but what are they going to do to stop the guys in the post, or Chris Mullin chucking threes, and we haven’t even mentioned Pippin or Drexler. Heck, Laettner and Bird could shoot better than anyone on today’s team.
And how are today’s players going to score? They have no interior scoring, and drives to the hoop would be met by the aforementioned frontline. We’ve already seen this team can go cold shooting, and shooting gets tougher when you have Pippin and Jordan defending you. Did you see what they did to Tony Kukoc? Don’t forget John Stockton’s knack for thievery.
Bottomline, today’s players don’t play true basketball. It’s all this hero ball nonsense. They learned how to play by watching the Dream Team, but obviously they didn’t learn enough. The Dream Team would own today’s team.
11 Hall of Famers? Oh, that’s neat. Let’s kick James Harden off the team and add an artifact like Bird onto the roster, say Tim Duncan? Now the 2012 team has…. 9 Hall of Famers. What, you don’t believe me? What, you’ll leave Kevin Love out of the HoF when he averages 23 and 11 for a career and is the best rebounder of his generation? Deron Williams can average 20 and 10 and that won’t get him in when there are point guards in the Hall with less than 5 assists per game? Last I checked you got enshrined based on your comparative success versus your contemporaries, not some guys wearing shorts that barely cover their jewels. And by the way, our college player is already getting compared to Bill Russell, yours was best known for one game winner.
That frontline just terrifies me. Oh no, look, it’s Charles Barkley, Mr. Weight Watchers, let’s see if he can guard Melo on the wing. Can you really honestly tell me that John Stockton would be able to do ANYTHING versus Westbrook and Chris Paul? Who’s Magic going to guard? Who’s going to contest Kevin Durant? Oh, and, I’m sorry, but I didn’t know MJ was used to guarding 6 foot 8 freight trains, I thought he was too busy letting Drazen Petrovic (my boy) drop 40 on him. Forget this years’ team: I want to see the Dream Team take on the great Yugoslav team. Think the Dream Team played good basketball? They might have invented it but the Yugoslavs freaking perfected it. While Divac is throwing no look behind the back passes, Ewing is missing three footers for the win.
And I almost forgot Kobe Bryant. THE BEST competitor in basketball history. So what if he needed 7 footers to win all his rings? They were his teams! It’s not like MJ needed Pippin on his team to win, right? And I forgot, remember all that trouble LeBron had to win his championship? Jordan lost three straight Eastern Conference Finals to Isaiah Thomas and the Pistons. Zeke wasn’t even allowed on the Dream Team because Jordan was such a wimp and didn’t want to play with him. Remember the “Jordan Rules?” MJ’s not so tough when he has three guys mugging him every possession. Mr. Jordan, say hello to Andre Iguodala, who can’t even make All-Star teams in today’s league.
Today’s team is too talented and athletic. The Dream Team is propped up by the media, and the fact that they played against teams full of fans, not actual players.
So do you see what I mean? Both of those arguments are (mostly) legitimate. Would the Dream Team win? Yes. Could the 2012 team win? Yes. To take such unwavering stances for either side is just idiotic.
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