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A day late to this, this every-other-day summer schedule is taking some getting used to, but yesterday wrapped 25 years ago one of the most astonishing things I’ve ever been even a small part of.
It was in Barcelona a quarter of a century ago Tuesday that the Dream Team finished up its run to the Olympic basketball gold medal and it was something we will never, ever see again.
I was lucky enough to cover that team at the Tournament of the Americas earlier that summer in Portland and Barcelona was the first Olympics I ever did and I don’t recall missing a single game the Americans played in their waltz to the gold.
I know we live in crazy media times and I had a first-hand seat to Vinsanity, and I covered the ’92 and ’93 Blue Jays World Series championships and I’ve seen every American men’s basketball team at every Games since Barcelona and nothing – nothing – compares to the craziness that surrounded that team.
Hell, there were players on opposing teams who were posing and asking for and taking pictures DURING games because they were so in awe of the NBA stars with who they never imagined sharing a court.
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And this piece by the great Jack McCallum, who chronicled the entire existence of the Dream Team better than anyone else from beginning to end, perfectly sums up the party-like atmosphere that Charles Barkley created in Barcelona. I remember being on Las Ramblas late one night – doing research for a story, I’m sure – and here Barkley came, like some kind of ginormous Pied Piper and the party was on.
It was, and this isn’t too much hyperbole, like the gods of Olympus had descended among the common folk; the frenzy around the Dream Team was shocking and never-ending.
Sure, they were simpler times and there wasn’t nearly as much security as there would be today (I remember standing in back corridor of the Portland Coliseum chatting with Jay Triano when Michael Jordan came around the corner all by himself and stopped to chat for five minutes, something that’s incomprehensible today). There were no cellphones with photographic and video capabilities and fans genuinely just wanted to see these guys rather than either catch them in some compromising situation or bait them into doing something they shouldn’t be doing.
Far simpler, far better, far more relaxed times. And, yeah, we all should miss them.
But the biggest thing we might want to think about a quarter of a century on isn’t necessary the adulation and the frenzy and the beautiful basketball we were able to witness up close.
I honestly think the legacy of the Dream Team – and I have made a conscious effort to never use that phrase in relation to another American team because there could never be another one – is what it did for the sport on a global basis.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that basketball has blossomed on every corner of the Earth since that summer; kids around the world got to see the greatest players play together and, yeah, a lot of them went to work right away emulating them.
I’ve spoken to several players I’ve gotten to know over the years about the impact of that team on them and on the game in the countries and the number that have said the Dream Team was the genesis for their love of and dedication to basketball might surprise you. They saw that team and those players play the game at the highest imaginable level and aspired to be them even more than they did just watching them with their teams in the few games they could see in an NBA regular season.
And that might be the most important thing the Dream Team did for basketball and I don’t think we can lose sight of that.
It was an amazing, exciting, exhilarating ride and, in some ways, it’s still going on today.
I was never a lineman for the county but I know a guy who is.
And, really, how many of you watched the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour?
Oh yeah, it was one of that genre that made TV back in the day so delightfully weird.
Got a few solid questions for the weekend mail already, a handful that will actually make me think, which is okay since it’s the summer and I’m not doing a lot of thinking each day. Gotta keep in mental shape, right?
But there’s still lots of room for maybe some that are a bit off the wall, or a tad easy and all you have to do is click on firstname.lastname@example.org and type to your heart’s content.
You’ll be glad you did, the weekend mail is where all the cool kids hang out.
In case you were wondering, or are perhaps a wee bit delusional, I see major league baseball set Oct. 3 as the date for the American League wild card game.
Just pointing that out.
Speaking of schedules, this item from Brian Windhorst over at ESPN yesterday kind of sums up a lot of what we already presumed about the NBA schedule and details a memo delivered to teams this week.
All of it makes sense – the percentage of cutting back in back-to-backs and four-games-in-five-nights is interesting to see – but a couple of other minor points popped up that will directly effect my life and well, we all know that it’s all about me, right?
That’s the fact they have cut back on single game road trips by almost a fifth is notable. Personally, I never minded the quick in-and-out trips that would pop up two or three times a months. Probably because they never involved flights that were too long because of geographical location, I never found them too taxing. A two-night trip – fly in the afternoon before, loaf, get up, work, come home – was always more amenable to me than fly in the afternoon before, loaf, get up, work, fly to another city, lather, rinse, repeat.
I know it’ll cut down on the number of flights and it’s the same number of road games, I fear it’ll just “seem” harder and more taxing.
Other than that, the stuff that Brian lays out packages in one neat item all the things we’ve heard in dribs and drabs and all that’s left is for the schedule to be released and my best guess would be that happens next week.
Hey, check out the snazzy new banner atop this little piece of interweb turf.
Kinda cool, no?
They take care of me back at Mother Star and I appreciate it.