Kobe, Kobe, Kobe…
Yesterday Kobe Bean Bryant told the media that the current United States Olympic Team would probably beat the legendary 1992 Dream Team if the two teams squared off. Bryant reasoned that most of the current US Olympic team players are at or are close to their prime ages whereas in 1992 the better Dream Team members were a bit long in the tooth.
I was skeptical, so I tested Bryant’s thesis. Using MWS, I compared the production of the Dream Team during the NBA season that preceded its Olympic campaign (1991-92) and compared those numbers to the numbers produced by the 2012 Olympic team during the last NBA season. Based on my calculations, I think Bryant is very wrong.
DREAM TEAM FEATURED MORE PRODUCTIVE PLAYERS
By the summer of 1992, Magic and Bird had gotten up in years, but other key players on the Dream Team, like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, and Karl Malone, were still relatively young. And almost all of them were uberproductive basketball players in 1991-1992. 9 of the 12 Dreamers produced negative losses (compared to 6 on the 2012 team) and none of the Dreamers produced the mediocre numbers produced by Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams (I don’t count Laettner, because he had not played in the NBA yet, and he was more or less a politically driven choice). Taken together, the Dream Team featured much more production than this year’s Olympic team.
I make the above statements based on two separate Win Charts I produced, one featuring the NBA production of the 2012 Olympic team in the current season, and one featuring the Dream Team’s production in the 1991-92 NBA season. As the Charts will show, even if one includes the political selection of Christian Laettner, the Dream Team still produced a far superior overall NBA winning percentage of 1.115% in 1991-92 compared to the 2012 team’s overall winning percentage last season of 0.923%. (When reading the Charts, remember that last season was not a full season. Thus, the cumulative numbers, like (a) wins and losses (W__L); (b) wins above 0.500% (W>0.5%)’; and Value Rating (VL) cannot be directly compared between the 2012 team and the Dream Team. To compare those numbers, divide them by 0.8).
(Both Charts, plus explanations of the information contained in each, can be accessed by banging on the links listed below.)
ANALYSIS: Dream Team was loaded
In his rebuttal to Bryant, Charles Barkley said the Dream Team would crush the 2012 team, and he surmised that the only 2012 players good enough to make the Dream Team roster are LeBron, Durant, and Kobe. I think he’s right in part, and wrong in part.
If I were to select an Olympic team from the combined rosters, and if I were to do so according to win potential, then I would probably select every Dream Team player except Laettner, Mullin, Ewing, and Bird (due to injury). I would replace the aforementioned 4 players with the 2012 players LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and probably Tyson Chandler (or Kevin Love). I certainly wouldn’t include Kobe Bryant on any combined team. He has not been an elite player for several seasons.
SIDEBAR: Why do smart people like Charles Barkley continually give Kobe Bryant so much respect??? He was never on Michael Jordan’s level, and he is certainly no longer an elite player. Yes, he can make difficult shots at a better rate than most humans, and he’s a good free throw shooter, but he really doesn’t do a whole lot of the other things that you need to do to win basketball games (I will admit he is an outstanding defensive player, but he is inefficient and he doesn’t rebound or pass and he takes poor shots). The real danger is Kobe’s best quality — his ability to convert circus shots. That ability can be a mixed blessing, as Charles Barkley pointed out during the playoffs. It encourages players to take terrible shots, and even the best shooters will have conversion rates on difficult shots that are much lower than the conversion rates you can get on easier shots.
The Dream Team was loaded with great players. Everyone recognizes Michael Jordan’s greatness, but fans and the media tend to underappreciate (or have forgotten) the true greatness of Magic Johnson. I believe Magic was the best non-center in basketball history.
And Charles Barkley is massively underrated, simply because he did not win a championship. Barkley, a man who stands about 6’3.5”, produced some of the greatest win statistics of any player in NBA history. Yet he never seems to enter the conversation when people talk about the truly elite players in NBA history.
Another Dream Teamer who doesn’t get his due is David Robinson. People seem to believe he was not good enough to win on his own, and that he simply rode the coattails of Tim Duncan to two NBA championships. No way. Robinson was an outstanding NBA player and a great win producer.
But I’m getting away from the point of this post. The point is, Kobe Bryant is wrong to claim that the 2012 Olympic team has better personnel than the Dream Team. It doesn’t. The Dream Team still stands as the greatest collection of basketball talent in the history of man.