They were the Beatles of basketball, the Mercury Seven in sneakers.
In Dream Team, acclaimed sports journalist Jack McCallum delivers the untold story of the greatest team ever assembled: the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team that captivated the world, kindled the hoop dreams of countless children around the planet, and remade the NBA into a global juggernaut.
As a senior staff writer for Sports Illustrated, McCallum enjoyed a courtside seat for the most exciting basketball spectacle on earth, covering the Dream Team from its inception to the gold medal ceremony in Barcelona. For the duration of the Olympics, he lived with, golfed with, and—most important—drank with some of the greatest players of the NBA’s Golden Age: Magic Johnson, the ebullient showman who shrugged off his recent diagnosis of HIV to become the team’s unquestioned captain and leader; Michael Jordan, the transcendent talent at the height of his powers as a player—and a marketing juggernaut; and Charles Barkley, the outspoken iconoclast whose every utterance on and off the court threatened to ignite an international incident. Presiding over the entire traveling circus was the Dream Team’s beloved coach, Chuck Daly, whose laissez-faire approach proved instrumental in getting the most out of such disparate personalities and superstars such as Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, and Scottie Pippen.
Drawing on fresh interviews with the players, McCallum provides the definitive account of the Dream Team phenomenon. He offers a behind-the-scenes look at the controversial selection process. He takes us inside the team’s Olympic suites for late-night card games and bull sessions where the players debate both the finer points of basketball and their respective places in the NBA pantheon. And he narrates a riveting possession-by-possession account of the legendary July 1992 intrasquad scrimmage that pitted the Dream Teamers against one another in what may have been the greatest pick-up game—and the greatest exhibition of trash talk—in history.
In the twenty years since the Dream Team first captivated the world’s attention, its mystique has only grown—and so has its influence. The NBA is now flush with international stars, many of them inspired by the exuberant spirit of ’92. Dream Team vividly re-creates the moment when a once-in-a-millennium group of athletes came together, outperformed the hype, and changed the future of sports—one perfectly executed fast break at a time.
The Dream Team was . . .
Michael Jordan, Guard, Chicago Bulls Magic Johnson, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers Larry Bird, Forward, Boston Celtics Charles Barkley, Forward, Phoenix Suns Chris Mullin, Forward, Golden State Warriors Scottie Pippen, Forward, Chicago Bulls John Stockton, Guard, Utah Jazz Karl Malone, Forward, Utah Jazz David Robinson, Center, San Antonio Spurs Patrick Ewing, Center, New York Knicks Christian Laettner, Forward, Duke University Clyde Drexler, Guard, Portland Trailblazers
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
THE INSPECTOR OF MEAT
Pros in the Olympics? It Was His Idea, and Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Different
He first came to the United States in January 1974, dispatched by his boss to study up on American basketball. He didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the customs, and settled into the basketball hotbed of Billings, Montana, because that’s where he could secure free lodging with a Yugoslavian family.
This stranger in a strange land was named Boris Stankovic. He was six months from his forty-ninth birthday and he had come on behalf of FIBA. At the time not more than a dozen Americans knew what it stood for (Fédération Internationale de Basketball), where it was headquartered (at the time in an apartment in Munich, later in Geneva), and what the hell it did (governed amateur basketball in all parts of the world except the United States). “You cannot know basketball if you do not know basketball in the United States,” Stankovic was told by R. William Jones, who as secretary-general ran FIBA with a bow tie, a lit cigar, and a dictator’s fist. So Stankovic came and was instantly seduced by the college games he saw live—UCLA’s redheaded phenomenon, Bill Walton, was his favorite player—and the NBA games he saw on television.
For much of his early adult life, Stankovic had been a meat inspector in Belgrade. “My job was to look over the meat and cheese and, as you do here, put a stamp on it,” said Stankovic when I interviewed him in Istanbul in the summer of 2010. He is retired now but comes to many events as the éminence grise of international basketball. Stankovic had earned a degree in veterinary medicine in 1945 from the University of Belgrade. “It was natural in our country that veterinarians looked after the meat and cheese, because it has to do with animals, no?”
The type of meat Stankovic most liked to inspect, though, was the cured leather on a basketball. Even as he was arising at five in the morning to take up his meat stamp and lace up his white apron, basketball is what moved his spirit. He was an earthbound, fundamentally sound low-post forward who played thirty-six games for the Yugoslavian national team. One of his proudest moments was playing for his country in the first world championship organized by FIBA, which took place in Argentina in 1950. “We finished ninth,” says Stankovic, chuckling, “and there were nine teams.” One of his enduring regrets was that he never participated in the Olympics as a player.
The Yugoslavs were a tall, tough, and lean people, hardened by wars civil and foreign. In the Balkan area of Yugoslavia where Stankovic was born, the people measure eras not by “war and peace” but by “war and non-war.” When Boris was nineteen, he and his father, Vassilje, a lawyer who fought for Serbian nationalism, were imprisoned by an invading Russian army. After two months Boris was released, but Vassilje was executed by firing squad and buried in a common grave; even today, Stankovic does not know where. Stankovic was put on a blacklist that later kept him from becoming a medical doctor, his desired profession, and forced him to veterinary school, his way of staying in the field of medicine. Like most of his countrymen from that generation, he identified with the Serbian rebels who had squirmed under foreign rule for five centuries. “They lived in groups and learned to cooperate, to work with each other,” Stankovic said. “We grew up with that in our blood. We Serbians have never had much success in the individual sports, but our team sports are very, very strong. We have a proficiency in and an aptitude for sports that require a lot of teamwork.”
Stankovic’s knowledge of the game and overall intelligence—virtually anyone who talks about him invariably mentions his brains—enabled him to rise steadily as a coach and executive. By the time he was thirty he was the most important nonplayer in Yugoslavian basketball, even as he continued to inspect meat, and had already become active in FIBA.
In 1966 Oransoda Cantù, a team in the Italian professional league, came calling in search of a coach, and Stankovic left his homeland. “I went for the money,” says Stankovic. “Italy was the richest league.” He was reviled by many Italians as an outsider but later grew to be loved, as winners usually are, when his team captured the championship in 1968. That’s when R. William Jones beckoned him back. Jones had seen the future of FIBA, and its name was Boris Stankovic.
Jones, who died in 1981, months after suffering a stroke during a dinner at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, was the kind of man for whom the term “grudging admiration” seems to have been invented. Born in Rome to a British father and French mother, he had earned a degree from Springfield College, where Dr. James Naismith hung up his first peach basket. Jones was “a very international guy” (Stankovic’s words), a combination that made him an undeniable basketball visionary. But he was also the classic amateur-sport pasha, imperious and intractable. For basketball people in the United States, Jones left his enduring imprimatur by allowing the Soviets three chances to win the gold medal against the U.S. team on September 9, 1972, at the star-crossed Olympic Games in Munich.
Stankovic was a long way from being an established leader when he first came to the United States on that intelligence-gathering trip in 1974. He was just an outsider trying to learn the nuances of American basketball while also trying to learn how to order a hamburger. He was granted a papal audience with John Wooden—“We talked basketball, so it was easy to communicate,” he says—but mostly he was left on his own, to watch, listen, and compare.
And what happened was that a basketball junkie was transfixed by the American players, college and pro. “It just seemed to be a different game,” says Stankovic, smiling at the memory. “Faster but also fundamentally sound. You watched a guy like Bill Walton for one minute and you could see that his level was so much higher than anyone we had in Europe.”
FIBA’s rules at the time banned professionals from playing under the FIBA banner, and the rules of FIBA were the rules of Olympic basketball. So it was, so it had always been, and so, everyone thought, it would always be. The hypocrisy, of course, was that de facto professionals were playing anyway, since international basketball teams always comprised their country’s top players, even if they were officially listed as “soldiers” or “policemen.”
With the lone exception of Stankovic, there was no push to include American pros in the Olympics, since the supremacy of even American collegians was considered self-evident, the anomaly of 1972 notwithstanding. Plus, it was simply part of our sporting ethos that the Olympics were for our college players. The NBA and the Olympics were planets rotating in different solar systems.
But the Inspector of Meat, an outsider, didn’t see it that way. As he watched the pro stars of the 1970s on TV—among them Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, plus his two favorites, Walt Frazier and Pete Maravich—it began to gnaw at him that America’s best players would never participate in the Olympic Games. “The hypocrisy was what got to me,” said Stankovic. “And there was a practical side. My concern was trying to make the game of basketball strong, to grow it, and yet there was this separation. It became impossible for me to tolerate.”
There might’ve been a self-serving side, too. Stankovic saw himself as the messiah of hoops, the person to lift the game above King Futbol. And he was irritated by the fact that his organization—the We-Have-the-Final-Say Court of All Appeals for world basketball—came with an asterisk because it wasn’t even a blip on the NBA’s radar screen.
Whatever the variety of reasons, Stankovic came back to Munich and told Jones that dropping the amateurs-only clause, thus clearing the way for America’s best players to compete in the Olympics, should be a FIBA goal—a truly anarchic idea, given the sociopolitical sports climate. The times might’ve been a-changin’, but not in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where Avery Brundage—a loathsome individual, a clear number one on the list of tin-pot despots who have run sports over the centuries—held fast to the concept of shamateurism.
Stankovic isn’t sure what Jones really thought of his idea, but his boss’s instruction was crystal clear. “He said, ‘Don’t bother,’” remembers Stankovic. “Or, as you say in America, ‘Don’t go there.’”
And for the next decade and a half, no one except Boris Stankovic went there.
Like many influential men and women throughout history, the Inspector of Meat is overlooked. He has never met Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, and the only time he has crossed paths with Michael Jordan was in the 1984 Olympics, in the pre–Dream Team days.
But whatever revisionist history might eventually be written, remember this: the Dream Team resulted from the vision of Boris Stankovic. It was not a secret plot hatched by David Stern to “grow the game,” one of the commissioner’s favorite phrases. It was not the result of a crusade by the NBA’s marketing demons to sell $200 Authentics in Europe, even though that was an eventuality. It was not frustration built up by the increasing reality that inroads were being made on the United States’ claim of basketball supremacy. The idea germinated in the mind of the Inspector of Meat from Belgrade.
The Chosen One
Sneaker Porn Is Born
It was some rare time away from Bob Knight, their dictatorial Olympic coach, and two candidates for the 1984 U.S. team, Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, were taking advantage of it by horsing around in their dorm room. Wild in-room wrestling matches were a major diversion for the collegians, particularly Charles Barkley and Chuck Person, two Auburn teammates who went at it pretty hard before they ended up on Knight’s very roomy chopping block.
Jordan, who had just completed his junior year at North Carolina, was heading for the NBA, while Ewing would be going back to complete his senior year at Georgetown. They were already good friends, having first met at high school all-star games and, more eventfully, in the 1982 NCAA final. It was there that a jump shot by North Carolina freshman Jordan led the Tar Heels to a 63–62 victory over freshman Ewing and his Georgetown Hoyas. Though no one realized the significance of it at the time, Ewing became the first of many great players to be stopped short of the finish line by Jordan.
The 6'6" Jordan had the 7'0" Ewing in a headlock. Neither young man was angry, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t semiserious: to Jordan, everything of a competitive nature had some degree of seriousness. Finally Ewing said uncle, and when the big center awoke the next morning, he couldn’t move his neck.
Man, was this going to be a tough conversation.
“Coach, I can’t practice this morning,” Ewing told Knight after screwing up his courage.
“What happened?” said Knight, and Ewing was forced to tell the whole story, giving up Jordan as the culprit.
“So I sat out, and man, Coach Knight was mad,” Ewing remembers years later. “But only at me. Michael? Nothing happened to him. Nothing ever happened to Michael.”
Yes, the summer of 1984 was a glorious one for Michael Jordan, the first of many, despite the fact that he had been initially resistant to the idea of competing in Los Angeles. “I was a little intimidated by Coach Knight,” Jordan told me in the summer of 2011. “I didn’t like his tactics, heard he ragged players, swore at them, and I didn’t want to spend the summer being berated by someone.” So he sought the counsel of his coach, Dean Smith, with whom he had a kind of father-son relationship, although Jordan’s own father, James, was a strong influence in his life.
“Coach Smith told me that all Knight wants to see is the fundamentals of the game of basketball,” Jordan said. (Even in casual conversation Jordan uses the phrase “the game of basketball” almost as if he’s describing holy writ.) “I had those fundamentals, so there shouldn’t be a problem. And once I got there I just saw a man who demanded you play the game a certain way and don’t make the same mistake twice. I didn’t.”
The summer was glorious, too, for the men who ran amateur basketball in the United States. The Olympic boycott of 1980, which had so soured them against President Jimmy Carter, was a distant memory. A solid team full of eager collegians—anchored by Jordan, whose singular skills, if not known worldwide, were certainly recognized in the United States, where he had just finished a gilded college career—was about to storm to the gold medal in Los Angeles. When the Soviets returned the 1980 favor by boycotting the L.A. Games, it seemed not to matter all that much. The U.S. collegians would’ve beaten that group anyway, or so went the thinking.
Knight was right out of the amateur hoops handbook, a tyrant of the first order but one of them, a dedicated (if sometimes out of control) disciple of ABAUSA, the group that ran amateur hoops at the time. “With Bobby in charge,” says C. M. Newton, one of his assistants, “there was no hoopla. It was straight down the path.”
Knight made the Olympic trials a Darwinian exercise from start to finish. More than a hundred players were invited, and they got cut twenty at a time. Karl Malone, a muscular but largely unknown player from Louisiana Tech, remembers that the early cuts had an impersonal feel. “You went through the lunch line in this big cafeteria, where they had a big bulletin board,” remembers Malone. “If your name was on the board, you were in.” One day Malone’s name wasn’t on the board. Eventually that freak of nature named Charles Barkley was cut. So was a guard named John Stockton.
There was a segment of the basketball population that didn’t completely buy into Jordan when he was at North Carolina, where, as common logic had it, the only one who could stop him was Smith, a rigid fundamentalist whose teams often held the ball. Anyone with one working eye and a semifunctional cortex knew that Jordan was going to be spectacular in the pros, but one supposition was that he would be a Clyde Drexler type, referencing the University of Houston product who had just finished his first season with the Portland Trail Blazers—that is, flashy but sometimes out of control, a scorer but not a shooter, a fan favorite but not a coach’s choice.
Though that impression would endure in some quarters until 1991, the year Jordan won his first championship with the Chicago Bulls, the basketball cognoscenti watching the L.A. Games saw what it really had in Jordan. He was a player who could break a zone with a jumper, lock down a high-scoring opponent, run the offense from the point if he had to. He could please Bobby Knight, for God’s sake. “The 1984 Olympics,” says David Falk, his agent, “was Michael’s coming-out party.”
Table of Contents
Thumbnail Sketches xi
Prologue: The Dream Team Gets a Name xxiii
1 Before The Dream
Chapter 1 The Inspector of Meat-Pros in the Olympics? It Was His Idea, and Don't Let Anyone Tell You Different 5
Chapter 2 The Chosen One-Sneaker Porn Is Born 10
Chapter 3 The Commissioner and the Inspector of Meat-The NBA Sticks a Tentative Toe into International Waters 15
Chapter 4 The Legend-"I'm the Three-Point King" 19
Chapter 5 The Outcast-Isiah Throws It Away … Then Throws It AM Away 25
Chapter 6 The Magic Man-With a Junior Skyhook, He Claims' His Place on Top 28
Chapter 7 The Shooter-Mullin Puts Down the Bottle and Puts Up the Numbers 34
Chapter 8 The Christian Soldier-The Admiral Takes an Olympic Fall 38
Chapter 9 The Chosen One-And So Does a Fork Become a Holy Relic 44
Chapter 10 The Old Guard-Here Today … Gone Real Soon 48
Chapter 11 The Shadow Man-For the Kid from Nowheresville, Arkansas, Playing Alongside Michael Could Be a Real Headache 55
Interlude, 2011: The Shadow Man-"Michael Got Away with a Lot of Things" 61
Chapter 12 The Coach-A Man of Both Style and Substance 66
Chapter 13 The Jester-Sir Charles Wants to Be an Olympian … He Just Doesn't Always Act Like One 74
Chapter 14 The Committee and the Dream Team-Okay, Superstars, Prepare for Deification. … Uh, Isiah? Not So Fast 81
Chapter 15 The Chosen One-Michael Seems to Have It All… But 'All" Comes with a Burden 90
Chapter 16 The Spokane Kid and the Outcast-Isiah Sends an Olympic Message … and the Mailman Follows with a Special Delivery 95
Chapter 17 The Dukie-Wanted: College All-American … Must Perform Scut Duty on Summer Vacation 103
Chapter 18 The Glide-Clyde's on the Team, and Jordan Shrags 109
Interlude, 2011: The Glide-"Jordan Was Damn Good … But Was He Better Than Me?" 114
2 The Dream Unfolds
Chapter 19 The Writer-And So It Begins … at a Cattle Call in San Diego 121
Chapter 20 The Magic Man-For a Man Who's Dying, He Sure Looks Pretty Alive 128
Interlude, 2011: The Magic Man-"It's My Mind-Set That's Kept Me Alive" 138
Chapter 21 The Coach-Chuck Has a Message for His Assistants: Make Sure to Ignore 143
Chapter 22 The One-Day Wonders-These Were the Best Days of His Life. … Surely Grant Hill's Wife Understands 150
Chapter 23 The Writer-The Action Begins in Portland and Everyone Wants a Piece 256
Chapter 24 The Legend-Larry Shoots and Scores … and at Night Lies Awake in Pain 164
Chapter 25 The Kid from Spokane-Daly Had a Pistons Phone Number in His Hand … and It Wasn't Isiah's 176
Interlude, 2011: The Kid from Spokane-"You're Not Writing That Down, Are You?" 181
Chapter 26 The Chosen One-So Many Balls to Sign … and Jordan Almost Reaches His Breaking Point 184
Chapter 27 The Writer, the Jester, and the Christian Soldier-Monsieur Barkley Will Indeed Take a Hit on 19 192
Interlude, 2011: The Christian Soldier-And What Shall a Man Do with All His Gifts? 204
Chapter 28 The Greatest Game That Nobody Ever Saw-"They Just Moved Chicago Stadium to Monte Carlo. That's All They Did" 210
Chapter 29 The Writer-"There's Helicopters Up There-This Shit Is Serious!" 231
Chapter 30 The Jester and the Angolan-"I Did Not Know That He Would Make Violence with Me" 241
Chapter 31 The Kukoc Game-"They Were like Mad Dogs on Toni" 250
Chapter 32 The Coolest Room in the World-"Charles, We're Sorry, but This Is a Ring Table. …" 258
Interlude, 2011: The Chosen One-"I Know My Father Was Up There Watching Me" 272
Chapter 33 The Tie-Dyed Darlings-Sabonis Wins Bronze, Then Sleeps It Off 278
Chapter 34 The Gold, the Flag, and the Chosen One-Some Wear Old Glory … Though Not in the Service of Patriotism 286
Chapter 35 The Aftermath-Michael/Magic/Larry … and Then There Were None 297
Chapter 36 The Impact-"We Were Like Actors in a Play" 311
Epilogue: The Legend-"I Would've Like to Have Touched Gold When I Was a Kid" 326
What People are Saying About This
"Great [listening] for NBA fans. High-demand backstory." -Booklist Starred Review
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
On the 20th anniversary of the ground breaking entry of US pro basketball players into International and Olympic play, longtime NBA and Sports Illustrated writer, Jack McCallum, has given us probably as close as possible , a primary source into what turned out to be a grand experiment that changed the sport forever. Because McCallum was so close to the team, yet also kept professional, journalistic distance, he has provided for the general reader, an inside account with enough distance to add some real comprehension into what happened, for the sport and the athletes involved. Wisely, I think, McCallum breaks his story up into chapters that focus on individuals. So a chapter places the larger story within a context of a chapter on Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Charles Barkley. He does provide the larger context for the Dream Team's inclusion, including interviews with Yugoslav FIBA representative, Boris Stankovic, a man largely unknown to American basketball fans, but without whom, the game might not have exploded as such a world wide, popular sport in the last few decades. This story is partly anecdotal, partly personal memoir (because McCallum did have as much outside access to the Dream Team as anyone, partly journalism and partly history. It is clear that a tremendous amount of work and research went into this book. McCallum had extensive one on one interviews with all the '92 Dream Team players in the last two years, to get their reflections on the event, after having their initial reactions, as events happened 20 years ago. Of course most of the chapters and interest follow the three pillars - Jordan, Johnson & Bird, but every player on that team has his say in this book and that alone makes this book a capstone for a true watershed telling in international sport and basketball history. McCallum's strongest writing, I think, concerns David Robinson, as he genuinely struggled to understand Robinson's motivations as a professed Christian, among teammates who mostly were not. Robinson's years since retirement have included hard effort as a leader of an inner city Christian school, and the writer does allow who and why Robinson developed into the type of player and man that he is, to be shown and not told. Larry Bird's chapters function almost like Bird's role on the team. Bird was the 'older statesman', a hard working, plain, straight talking player, who valued effort, and competition and was wise enough to know his role among such large, competitive egos. If you enjoy the Olympics, leadership study, personal relationships, basketball or even 90's culture, I highly recommend this book.
Great story about the best team that ever played. What a great account by an author that is obviously respected among the players. Chapter 28, enough said!
Great read! There will never be another DREAM TEAM, despite all the hooplah abouot this new generation of players. The young men back in the day had respect for the game and it definelty was not about the money. If you like to revisit history as it was and related to the game of basketball, this is an awesome read!
Started reading this after all the debates on whether the 2012 team could beat the original Dream Team. What this book does a great job of doing is reminding people how monumental this assembly of players was when it first occurred. Sure Magic and Bird were about to retire, but they HAD to be on this team. And everyone else? All Hall of Famers.
He sucks Amd hqve u seen shaqin a foo he eas scared of the hoop!
I could not put it down, each chapter is more fun than the previous
Lets a go.
She teleports to res 5
Once you start reading, it's hard to stop. This book kept me up for several nights in a row.
Good but swears alot. Other than yhat its good
Greatest team ever created in sports history. This book really describes the importance of this team and how they made it in the NBA.
I have one word to say about this book great.........
How many pages does this book have?¿¿?