Kobe Bryant thinks that the 2012 U.S.A. Olympic Team could beat the 1992 Dream Team featuring Michael Jordan and his rowdy friends? Big words for sure. But Kobe Bryant could say that the 2012 U.S.A. Olympic Team could beat a team consisting of Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Bird and Jordan, all in their primes, and since I haven’t heard about any major advancements in time machine technology over the past couple of days, nobody will ever definitely know whether or not his hot air would actually mean something.
(Although I wouldn’t sleep on the Olympic Team getting that whole time machine thing done -- their combined 2012 salaries are roughly equivalent to the GDP of some minor countries. Nothing’s impossible, folks. If LeBron told Nike’s engineers to get on it, you don’t think they would in a heartbeat?)
Even if nobody will ever know for sure, though, that doesn’t mean that numbers can’t give an educated guess. Just for fun, let’s assume that this game’s on a neutral court, somewhere like Madison Square Garden, where both the 1992 and 2012 versions of Spike Lee are on opposite sidelines looking very confused why the guy on the other side is stealing his mojo. The 2012 squad has no idea what those short-shorts are about, and the 1992 squad looks up confused when Drake is blasted every other song. Donald Sterling sees his 1992 doppelganger, realizes that he looks exactly the same, and shrugs. The more I write about this hypothetical scenario, the more I really want that time machine.
Since it’s hard to figure out whether the team dynamic in a given year would hurt or help in this matchup, and because you can’t really tell anything from the 2012 squad’s drubbing of the Dominican Republic, numberFire is assuming that the whole actually does equal the sum of the parts in this case. nF took a look at five key stats from the players’ preceding NBA seasons (1991-1992 and 2011-2012, respectively) that would be the most consistent regardless of era: offensive rating, defensive rating, effective field goal percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and turnover percentage. While most of the Dream Team has laughed off Kobe’s assertion, the stats say that the Young Guns would give them a much closer game than they’d think.
1992 Olympic Team’s Strengths
Offensive Rating (Points per 100 possessions): 117.7 (+2.1)
Effective Field Goal Percentage (includes the added value of three-pointers): 52.9% (+0.2%)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: 6.6% (+1.9%)
The one area where the Dream Team would have the 2012 squad covered is on the offensive end, where their players were more effective at both putting the ball in the hoop as well as getting offensive boards to create more of those offensive possessions. The Big Man disparity is a big part of this. The Admiral and the Round Mound of Rebound, despite being polar opposites on the Nickname Seriousness Scale, would team up on one key point: to dominate the boards. Robinson finished the 1991-1992 season with an offensive rebounding percentage of 11.2%, while Barkley wasn’t far behind with his 10.9% (actually one of the lowest totals of his career). Both players also shot over 55% from the field for the season, while other big men Patrick Ewing (52.2%) and Karl Malone (52.6%) did their job to not hurt the average either. And as always, don’t forget that MJ guy – Jordan averaged 1.21 points for every possession he was used during Chicago’s ’91-’92 season.
2012 Olympic Team’s Strengths
Defensive Rating (Points allowed per 100 possessions): 102.4 (+0.3)
Turnover Percentage: 13.0% (+0.2%)
But while the 1992 team had the 2012 covered on the offensive end, the new guys have stepped up their game in other ways, both defensively and taking care of the ball. They didn’t win either of these two particular statistics by much, but they were slightly better at holding opponents’ points down per 100 possessions as well as limiting turnovers. Naturally, King James was a big part of the defensive resurgence – his average 97 points allowed per 100 possessions during the Heat championship season represents his lowest total in his nine years in the league. On the turnover side, the point guards did their job not giving up the rock in a way that the Dream Team couldn’t live up to – Chris Paul (10.8%) and Russell Westbrook (14.8%) each had the lowest turnover percentages in '11-12 of their respective careers. The current Olympic Team may not have the shooting or rebounding prowess, but the guards in particular are scrappy enough to keep them in any game.
Our final total is that the 1992 Olympic Team would win 54.3% of the time. Sorry Kobe!
It’s a close tally, but the 1992 Dream Team would pull out the victory just barely more than half the time against the 2012 Olympic squad. Of course, this would be in an ultimate Dream Groundhog Day universe, where the 1992 and 2012 teams would be forced to face off every day for eternity. At the very least, it would give sports fans something to watch on days like the Sports Off Day everyone experienced on Wednesday. Does somebody have that time machine ready yet?