The 1992 United States men’s basketball team is one of the greatest basketball rosters ever assembled.
That is why the legacy of the “Dream Team” — which has been brought to light again with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary — still carries on almost 30 years later.
The team did not just win the gold medal. It left an impact both in the United State and globally that the game of basketball benefits from today, and put up some insane numbers while doing it.
Here is everything you need to know about the 1992 U.S. men’s basketball team:
Why was the ‘Dream Team’ formed?
Basketball became a sport in the Summer Olympics in 1936, and the United States won gold in seven consecutive Olympics before the Soviet Union upset the U.S. in a controversial 51-50 finish in 1972.
Communist countries used professional players while the United States played amateur players, and Yugoslavia won gold in 1980 and the Soviet Union in 1988. After the United States took bronze in 1988, and in response USA basketball worked with NBA commissioner David Stern to allow professional players to play.
That came at the perfect time, because the NBA was full of legendary players at the time.
Why was it called the ‘Dream Team’?
On Feb. 18, 1991, the Sports Illustrated cover featured five members of the team in Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing with the words “Dream Team” across the front. It’s one of the most iconic covers in the magazine’s history and created excitement for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Living the Dream. This Sports Illustrated cover was signed by six members of the Dream Team (and let’s not forget the Admiral): Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone. pic.twitter.com/aSqDsoIv4C
— PSAcard (@PSAcard) March 5, 2019
‘Dream Team’ roster, 1992 Olympics
The cover preceded the selection show on Sept. 21, 1991, when the first 10 members of the “Dream Team” were announced.
Here’s the full roster of the 1992 “Dream Team” (in alphabetical order):
- Charles Barkley, PF, Phoenix Suns
The 11-time All-Star won NBA MVP honors in 1993 with the Phoenix Suns.
- Larry Bird, SF, Boston Celtics
The three-time NBA champion and three-time MVP was 35 years old.
- Patrick Ewing, C, New York Knicks
The 7-foot center was a 11-time All-Star with the New York Knicks.
Johnson, a five-time NBA champion and three-time MVP, played on the team despite abruptly retiring in 1991 after contracting HIV.
- Michael Jordan, SG, Chicago Bulls
Jordan was a six-time NBA champion, five-time MVP and a member of the gold-medal team in 1984.
Malone was a 14-time All-Star and two-time MVP who ranks in NBA history in points scored.
- Chris Mullin, SF, Golden State
Mullin was a five-time All-Star and won of the best shooters of the 1990s.
Pippen was a six-time NBA champion and seven-time All-Star as Jordan’s wingman in Chicago.
“The Admiral” was the 1995 NBA MVP and a two-time NBA champion with the Spurs.
- John Stockton, PG, Utah
The 10-time All-Star is the NBA’s all-time leader in assists.
The “Dream Team” later added two more players to fill out the roster, including one player from the NCAA:
- Clyde Drexler, SG, Portland
Drexler was a 10-time All-Star who later won a NBA championship with Houston in 1995.
- Christian Laettner, PF, Duke
The lone college player on the team led Duke to back-to-back national championships in 1991-92.
Who was left off the ‘Dream Team’?
The “Last Dance” has rekindled the controversy with Detroit’s Isiah Thomas, who was left off the team. Thomas was a 12-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion, but a feud with Jordan and Pippen stemming from their rivalry in the Eastern Conference was seen to be the root of the Detroit star being left off the team.
LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal, who was picked No. 1 in the 1992 NBA Draft, was left off in favor of Laettner. O’Neal played on Dream Team II in 1996 and still claims that team would beat the original Dream Team.
Who coached the Dream Team?
Detroit coach Chuck Daly was the head coach of the “Dream Team,” which made the Thomas drama that much more intriguing. Lenny Wilkens, who ranks second all time in NBA history with 1,332 wins, was the assistant coach from the NBA ranks.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Seton Hall coach P.J. Carlesimo were also on the staff.
‘Dream Team’ stats: 1992 Olympic dominance, by the numbers
On June 28, 1992, Team USA opened with a 136-57 blowout against Cuba in the Tournament of the Americas. That showed the Dream Team at full strength.
They finished the Tournament of Americas with a 6-0 record and won those games by an average of 51.5 points per game.
Tournament of Americas
That full-scale domination continued at the Olympics in Barcelona. The Dream Team finished 8-0 and beat Croatia 117-85 in the gold medal game.
Team USA won those eight games by an average of 43.8 points per game.
‘Dream Team’ 1992 Olympics results
Who led the ‘Dream Team’ in scoring?
Charles Barkley led the Dream Team with 16.3 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game. He is best-remembered for his response to a question he was asked about Angola before the first game in the Olympics.
“I don’t know anything about Angola,” Barkley said. “But Angola’s in trouble.”
‘Dream Team’ legacy & impact on basketball
The Dream Team — especially the impact of Jordan’s popularity — helped contribute to the globalization of basketball in the NBA.
Foreign players have become a huge part of the game. Yao Ming and Andrea Bargnani have been No. 1 picks, and Dirk Nowitzki and Giannis Antetokounmpo have won the NBA MVP award since.
Team USA also have dominated Olympic Basketball with professional players. They have won five gold medals since the Dream Team; the only loss coming in 2004 when it finished with the bronze.
The Dream Team was elected to the FIBA Hall of Fame.