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06/13/2012 12:25 pm ET Updated Jun 13, 2012

An Oral History Of The Dream Team

It was always a silly rule. According to international basketball guidelines in place for decades, professionals from leagues all over the world could compete for their countries at the Olympics—but NBA players could not. The effect was to balance out America's towering advantage in the sport. You know, give the poor bastards a chance. The rule was dropped in April 1989, though, after the United States finished a humiliating third at the previous summer's Olympics in Seoul. Parity, everyone learned, wasn't nearly as captivating as dominance. And make no mistake: Dominating was as important as winning. The idea was to dazzle, to put on a display of American might so awe-inspiring that the best our rivals could hope for was a silver medal. Or even better, Michael Jordan's autograph.

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