Hubbard: Original Dream Team is ancient history for current Team USA

LAS VEGAS — As the years go by, reminders of advancing age increase, and no one who has reached adulthood is spared.

When asked about one of those events Monday, U.S. Olympic basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski – who is at the retirement age of 65 – said, “I try not to think about it.”

If the person who conceived the term “time flies” wanted to make different age groups feel older, he or she could point out:

1. How painful it has been for baby boomers to watch as rock stars hit 70. If they’re getting older, so are we.

2. That is has been 29 years since the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised. Even the younger are feeling older.

3. Magic Johnson announced he had HIV 21 years ago. Is that possible? Someone born about that time is now legal age? Depressing.

4. The Macarena craze began 17 years ago. Seems like it played a million times only yesterday.

5. The first episode of The Sopranos appeared on HBO 13 years ago. Meadow and A.J. are 31 and 27, respectively. Even kids are feeling older.

Yes, time flies. Time disappears. As Pete Townshend once wrote, “We tried not to age but time had its rage.”

During this summer of 2012, however, as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Dream Team, I think I found the ultimate fact to make all of us – younger and older alike – feeling nothing less than ancient.

On August 8, 1992 in Barcelona, Spain, the Dream Team defeated Croatia, 117-85, to win the Olympic gold medal.

About seven months later – 215 days to be precise – Anthony Davis Jr. was born in Chicago.

Yes, that’s correct. When the Dream Team won the gold medal, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft – a finalist for the 2012 Olympic Team – was an embryo.

“How crazy is that?” Kobe Bryant said Monday. “Does he even know who [Michael] Jordan is? Does he think [Jordan’s] a silhouette or something?”

Davis set the record straight.

“I read a little bit about them,” he said. “I watched a couple of specials, but I don’t know much. I wasn’t even born [when they played].”

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All of Team USA’s current players were born – barely – when the fabled squad led by Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley won the gold medal.

Kevin Durant was 3 years old. So were Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook. James Harden was 2.

Others were in grade school, including LeBron James.

“I first heard about them when I started playing basketball,” James said. “Then I started researching the history of the game because that’s important to me. They set it up for us. They’re allowing us to now be part of something special, so we respect them.”

At 33, Bryant is the oldest of the current Olympians. He was 13 in 1992, already a huge basketball fan and a serious player. Joe Bryant, his father, played eight years in the NBA, so Kobe grew up in a basketball world.

In 1992, Bryant said he watched every game of the Dream Team at the Tournament of the Americas in Portland and at the Olympics in Barcelona.

“That was my development age,” Bryant said. “I watched the whole thing.”

The Dream Team has been credited with accelerating the popularity of the NBA throughout the world and obviously influencing a generation of basketball players. But it does seem that now, that influence is indirect. Players obviously know Jordan the owner and endorsement icon and Magic Johnson the analyst, businessman and public figure. But most of the players they idolized growing up were players influenced by the Dream Team.

(RELATED CONTENT: Setting the Dream Team record straight).

Enough time has passed for the influence to now be indirect, one generation removed.

But Krzyzewski, who was an assistant coach on the Dream Team, disagrees.

“I think a number of [players] are still influenced by the team,” he said. “In their world everything’s big, but that was like a seismic reaction in the game. And if you’re really a basketball player and a really good one, you’ll recognize those moments in time. The Dream Team was a huge moment in time, one of the great moments in time for worldwide basketball. It was really an explosion that has generated activity all over the world. So they know that.”

Bryant said the current players had a conversation about the Dream Team a few days ago, comparing their ages at the time and talking about what they were doing. Krzyzewski said that is an example of how the current great players appreciate the past.

“They’re extremely interested,” he said. “I think LeBron and Kobe are the two best about knowing the past and what it’s meant to the present and what it will mean to the future. If you understand that, you understand your responsibilities to the game.

“The best players in a sport not just have a responsibility to themselves and their teams, they have a responsibility to the game. And the great players of the past, whether it be a [Jerry] West, [Oscar] Robertson or a [Bill] Russell, Bird and Magic and Michael – they had a responsibility to the game, which they handled well. And these guys are handling it well, too.”

It’s refreshing to know that not only players like Bryant and James, but also a 22-year old like Harden are motivated to find out about their predecessors. “Best USA Olympic team,” Harden said. “Everybody knows about the Dream Team.”

It just goes to show that you don’t have to be old to appreciate history. But sometimes when you do, it really makes you feel old.

Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years in between media stints. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub.

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  1. FrankieB says

    Great article, Jan. You are so right about getting older — hitting the big “5-0″ later this year. When I was younger, NOBODY I grew up idolizing in the world of TV, movies, sports, or politics would die. My parents would comment about some TV or movie star from before I was born, but I didn’t know them except through trivia books.

    Just the other day, Ernest Borgnine, another guy I grew up with in the late 1960′s/early-1970′s through re-runs (was too young to see “McHale’s Navy” in prime time), passed away. Frank Cady of “Green Acres” a few weeks before that….the list goes on and on.

    The Final Episode of M*A*S*H — wow. Still the highest-rated TV show ever in the U.S. I remember watching with half the dorm and not a place to sit/lay down when the dorm geek (but a friend !) wandered in and wondered if we minded watching a PBS special on the economy that he wanted to see. He almost got chased halfway across campus !! Ah, good memories !

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