"Bryant has the ball in his left hand with six seconds left. He crosses over and continues dribbling toward the sideline. He rises up, fades away to the right, over Jordan for the win... IT'S GOOD!!"
This is how I, and I'm assuming millions of other fans, could imagine (and/or hope) a fairytale match up of this year's Olympic team and 1992's "Dream Team" would end. Unfortunately the world will only be able to dream, or possibly re-create the matchup on a popular basketball video game (idea for NBA 2K or another more internationally progressive basketball game series?).
Regardless of the artificial result and endless debates, this year's Olympic team is indeed better than that oh-so-legendary Dream Team.
It is no secret that this era's players are more athletic. Players ranging in skill level from "His Airness" to Shawn Bradley will admit that fact. Basketball has arguably developed into America's second most popular sport as it becomes the dream of more and more children each day.
However even more important than the sport's domestic rise in success and popularity, is its international acclaim. As the NBA seeks to join the ranks of football (or American dubbed "soccer") in the international market, the level of international ability and competition is undoubtedly on an incline.
This incline can be seen in everyday life in addition to this year's Olympic games.
I'm currently taking a summer course at the London School of Economics and I decided to join two other alumni from my undergraduate institution in a game of basketball after class one day. The two played the day before with four other students of Asian descent.
On this day, the three of us entered the gym along with another African-American student from Detroit. After shooting a couple warm-up shots, we immediately began to play 2-on-2.
Mid-way through the first game a fellow student of Asian descent entered the gym (I assumed he was one of the students from the previous day, but I would later find out this was incorrect).
Peter, as he would later introduce himself, went on to watch an intense match between four African-Americans whom I'm sure were a different grade of competition than he was used to.
My team ended up losing the first game by two points, and Peter decided to select me to play on his team for the subsequent game.
Peter and I's synergy on the court seemed to mesh perfectly as we jumped ahead of the previous winners six to zero, with him scoring three of our first six points.
The opposing team then began a run and Peter and I would end up winning a very close and hard-fought game, 11 to 10.
At the end of this game, a Caucasian American standing at about six feet and four inches walked into the gym ready to play. Since Peter and I won the previous game, we decided to "give" the tall gentlemen to the opposing team and we picked up my fellow alumnus who was on my team during the initial 2-on-2 matchup.
Once again, Peter and I defeated the opposing team, despite their addition of this tall fellow wearing a Boston Celtics warm-up shirt.
While he was never our team's leading scorer, Peter's athleticism, hustle, and occasional made shots were essential to our team's success in both games.
Once the game was over, Peter introduced himself to us and told us that he was from China and has been living in London for six years. He also admitted how refreshing it was to have some competition in the gym as according to him, "not many people play basketball out here."
Now while I was slightly shy of two years old when the Dream Team was crushing their international competition, I'm sure this scene with Peter and four African-Americans would not have been the same in that era. It can certainly be wondered if he would have even been in the gym.
While basketball's popularity in Asia can partly be attributed to the NBA's creation of a $2.4 billion industry in China and characteristics such as the league's logo on milk containers in Inner Mongolia, the sport's rise in countries across the world is also apparent (while not as rapid and widespread).
While Olympic rookies like Tunisia can at least stay competitive with the USA for one half of a game and teams like Spain and Brazil can be said to have the ability to "potentially upset" the USA team, it is clear that the USA has to and will have to play at a high level to win gold; a level that I believe to be superior to that of international competition 20 years ago.
The Dream Team's margin per victory 20 years ago (five preliminary round games and three knockout stage games) was 44 points. And I highly doubt this year's team will have that large of a margin, especially once they start playing teams that actually have multiple NBA pros on their squads.
Therefore, barring a legendary upset, when the U.S. team wins gold this year it will be even more clear to me that they are better than 1992's Dream Team.
This year's team isn't even composed of literally the NBA's best of the time as the Dream Team was. Regardless of their lack of size, or collection of 10+ future hall of famers in their primes, this year's team is better simply based on the increase in competition and ability around the world.
According to Kobe Bryant and 90 percent of the twitter poll I took from persons who I believe to be "above average basketball IQ fans," my stance in this article is preposterous. But hopefully my words have spawned additional thought in the minds of the black mamba and my comrades.
Follow Nicolas B. Aziz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@NicoBrierre