Saturday, July 07, 2012

Book Review: Dream Team by Jack McCallum

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 10, 2012)

Longtime Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum was there at the very beginning of the Dream Team.  He was there for the team photo, which he appeared in alongside David Dupree of USA Today, which was taken right before the 1992 Gold Medal game against Croatia.

Magic Johnson.  Larry Bird.  Michael Jordan.  Charles Barkley.  Scottie Pippen.  David Robinson.  Patrick Ewing.  Clyde Drexler.  John Stockton.  Karl Malone.  Chris Mullin.  Christian Laettner.

A coaching staff led by Chuck Daly with Mike Krzyzewski, Lenny Wilkens, and P. J. Carlesimo serving as assistants.

As a team, they were enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.  Of the coaching staff, all but P. J. Carlesimo have been inducted as individuals.  Of players, only Christian Laettner has not been inducted as an individual and chances are, in all likelihood, he never will.

There's only one Dream Team.  I don't care what people say about the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles, the James/Wade/Bosh Miami Heat.  The Dream Team represented the United States of America as they played in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

During the Olympics, they would demolish their competition, beating their opponents by 32-68 points.  As Charles Barkley once said: "I don't know anything about Angola but Angola's in trouble."

Michael Jordan almost said no to playing for Team USA as I've read in the book.  If Isiah Thomas was going to be offered a spot on the team, Michael would not play.  Others, too, said they would not play if Thomas was invited.

Laettner beat out Shaquille O'Neal for the collegiate spot.  Had it gone to Shaq, all 12 players would have been inducted to the Hall of Fame not only as a team but individually as well.

For those that need more after the Dream Team documentary that recently aired on NBA TV, this is the book for you.  It's the 20th anniversary of the Dream Team and this is the book that is a must-read for that occasion.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird saved the NBA in the 1980s.  For them, this was their swan song, their farewell tour to professional basketball.  Michael Jordan, the new it guy in the NBA, was one of the leaders on the team as well.  As John Stockton put it so kindly, "everybody was a rock star."

McCallum takes us behind the scenes to the hotel at The Ambassador in Spain, where Team USA would stay in 1992.  He takes us to the intrasquad scrimmage in Monte Carlo, which pitted half the team against the other half, calling it "The Greatest Game No One Ever Saw."  This book provides the first real account of that game.

With no Dream Team, there would be no Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, etc.  It was the Dream Team that really expanded the NBA fan base into Europe and around the world.  Because of guys like Magic, Larry, Michael, and Charles, the Dream Team not only was able to conquer the world but, as the title suggests, they would change the game of basketball forever.

Jack McCallum tells a great story with in-depth interviews from the team and the folks behind USA Basketball in the late 1990s.

Grade: A+

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