By Brandon Niles, Explorebigsky.com Sports Writer
Olympic participant and long-time Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant recently made a comment that’s caused a stir in sports media. When comparing the current Olympic basketball team is to the 1992 “Dream Team”, Bryant said this year’s team could win. He wasn’t certain they could win a seven game series, he said, but in one game, they would have a chance.
While obviously a soft statement meant to encourage his teammates and show confidence in his own abilities, Bryant’s remark set off a flurry of media attention. Articles have emerged all over the Internet, discussing whether it’s true, and famous members of the 1992 squad laughed it off, showing competitive spirit.
The 1992 squad was the first time NBA players were allowed to participate in the Olympic. The team had 11 hall of fame players on it, including legends such as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. The team easily went undefeated and won the gold medal. While other teams have had similar success in the games since, the 1992 team will forever be known as original “Dream Team” and is often considered the greatest compilation of sports stars in history.
To some, Bryant’s challenge is sacrilege. How could a person, for even a moment, question the greatness of these basketball icons?
But in professional sports, new stars are often compared to those of yesteryear, usually coming up short in the eyes of those who wax nostalgic of past triumphs. A memory of Browns running back Jim Brown dominating the competition couldn’t possibly match up to the prowess of Adrian Peterson today. Just as Wilt Chamberlain’s impact on basketball can’t possibly be duplicated by somebody like Dwight Howard.
Eras of sports stars simply cannot be compared. While one can argue the historical impact or innovative techniques that certain players added, it’s difficult to make a compelling argument that players from the past were better than their modern counterparts. Guys like Chamberlain and Brown were amazing at the time, but they were also bigger and more athletic than the competition.
Sports evolve and so do athletes. Players get bigger, smarter and faster with each decade, and some, like Kevin Durant and Lebron James, now have the speed and size to play nearly any position on the basketball court. The game is at a higher level than it ever was, and that’s the case in all sports.
Even though 1992 may not be as far back as the eras of players like Chamberlain and Brown, the game has changed in 20 years since the original Dream Team ruled the house. For example, in the NBA of today the center position has changed so much that there are very few true centers in the league. Centers today are long and athletic, with the ability to step out and hit 12 – 17 foot jump shots. Gone are the days of the immobile giant manning the position.
Athleticism has become the primary tool needed for players to excel. It’s difficult to imagine the best players in 1992 facing James and Durant and not being frustrated by their insane athleticism.
The 1992 team will always be legendary, and in many ways, it will always be considered the best team of all time. Guys like Chamberlain and Brown will always be iconic, as will their counterparts from eras past. However, the argument should never be which player is better or which team would win.
The players of the next decade will be better than those of today, and that’s why sports stars can never truly be compared across eras.