'The Dream Team': new book reveals the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan

Each chapter breaks down the backstory of the players and how each player became a part of the Olympic team. Photo: A celebratory Magic Johnson AP

OKLAHOMA CITY, August 23, 2012 — Now that the Olympics are over, you may be itching for more or you may have had your fill and can’t stand another score of 16.45. One of the story lines of this Olympics was could this year’s USA basketball team beat the legendary 1992 Dream Team?

The new book “The Dream Team” by Jack McCallum may not definitively answer that question, but it makes a great case that the ’92 team was the best team ever assembled in sports.

McCallum covered the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 for Sports Illustrated, but also interviewed every single member of the team recently for the book. If you have even a passing interest in this subject or are a fan of the NBA, then you need to read this book. 

Each chapter breaks down the backstory of every player on the roster. How the player got to the league and how he became a part of the Olympic team.

One of the central characters who was not on the team is Isiah Thomas. There has always been talk that Michael Jordan did not want Thomas on the team but never confirmed. Consider it confirmed. Jordan is now on the record that he didn’t want Thomas on the team, but now so is Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone and Larry Bird. Each player had his reasons that mostly had to do with how Thomas was on the Bad Boy Pistons and their style of play.

Michael Jordan with American flag AP

Making things more awkward, the Dream Team coach was Thomas’ coach Chuck Daly, who was the only major player not interviewed for the book because he unfortunately died.

The book takes you through the selection of the team, the training camp, late night gambling and the gold medal ceremony (Why did Jordan have a flag draped over his shoulder for the ceremony?). But maybe the most fascinating chapter is the detailed account of a scrimmage between the players that pitted Magic Johnson vs. Jordan.

McCallum also makes himself a character giving first hand accounts of his time with the team in Barcelona and his recent interviews. Some would prefer writers don’t use first person, but I like how McCallum does it here. (See what I did there?)

The book is very candid, giving an uncensored look at how these guys really are. Players had never seen the notorious trash-talking Bird relax with the guys with a no-care attitude. Charles Barkley loved hanging out with the locals even though security hated it. John Stockton could walk around Barcelona unnoticed even though he was on the most famous team in the world.

But the two main characters are Magic and Jordan. At the time, Magic was a year removed from announcing he was HIV Positive, and Jordan had come off maybe the greatest season for a player ever. 

Magic was desperate to keep his place as the alpha dog in the league, and Jordan was desperate to prove him wrong while still getting his approval.

Magic chose number 15 because he would always be announced last. Jordan would gamble all night, play golf the next day and walk on the bus ready for the game.

As much as Magic is known for his personality and smile, apparently it got old to the players. Every player still speaks in awe of Jordan could do on the court giving him G.O.A.T. status except Magic and for some reason Clyde Drexler.

Could this year’s team beat the Dream Team? We’ll never know, but no one can beat this book for its subject.  “The Dream Team” is fascinating and should be read by fans immediately.


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Jason Black

Jason Black is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma where he recieved a B.A. in Journalism.  While at OU he served as Sports Director for the University television station.  He has recieved multiple awards for public speaking and comedy.

He appears weekly on 18 radio stations across the country and also writes for the magazine distinctly Oklahoma.

Growing and living in Oklahoma for almost his entire life, Jason has a passion for all sports mixed with a little pop culture.

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