Dream Team to Meme Team

Alana Abeyta, Jack Elarde, and Hana Erickson

Dream Team (1992)

On August 8th, 1992, the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team was in Barcelona, Spain fighting for gold against Croatia in the last game of the 1992 Olympics. The U.S. took the win by a score of 117-85, and left the arena with a shiny gold medal. This legendary team, labeled the “Dream Team,” is well known for their impeccable 8-0 Olympic record, winning by an average margin of 43.8 points over their opponents. However, it was not their winning streak that set them apart from other teams, but rather the players themselves. The Dream Team was composed of 11 Hall of Fame players, the most notable being Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, and has been deemed the greatest team ever assembled. Despite being superstars, these talented players did not let their egos get in the way and that is what made them so special and contributed to their success. Every one of the players on the team was extremely talented and could probably perform very well without the help of their teammates, but nobody on the team acted selfishly, and that was reflected in the players’ scoring averages. Most of the players averaged from eight to 18 points per game, which shows that they trusted each other with the ball and used each individual’s strengths to their advantage in order to be the best and bring home the gold. 


Redeem Team 2008:

The 2008 US Men’s team earned their nickname, The Redeem Team, because of their comeback from a disappointing bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics. They are said to have restored Team U.S.A’s international dominance, since they were the first team to bring home the gold since 2000. It is this major comeback that makes them so notable in the history of U.S. Olympic basketball. The Redeem team featured eleven NBA All Stars including Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and captain Kobe Bryant, who was the 2008 NBA MVP. Their successes came in part from their strong leadership with Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzeweski as their coach. However, it was also the team’s timing that played a big part in their dominance. Many of the players that were on this team had turned down offers in previous years. Whether it was embarrassment due to failure or a desire to get back on the court, something urged stars such as Dwayne Wade to be back on the roster and take matters into their own hands. Whatever spark they had inside was enough to drive them to defeat all their opponents and finally face off against Spain during the championship game. They were able to come together to win that game by a score of 118-107, making them champions once again and making their country proud.


LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, and Dwayne Wade were among the young core that made up the 2004 olympic team and, given their individual talent, they were expected to bring home the gold. However, the team suffered immensely throughout the season even with a Hall of Fame coach, Larry Brown, in control of the team. One contributing factor was the team chemistry. Despite being filled with talent, the players had only been playing together for two weeks before the Olympics began. Most often than not, national teams from other countries play together for years at a time. This, however, could not be the only contributing factor, seeing as more successful teams, such as the Redeem Team of 2008, were in the same situation. Maybe it was the lack of preparation or maybe their heart was not in it, but the the 2004 Olympic team lost three games, giving them the record for the most losses ever from a USA Olympic basketball team. Prior to the Olympics, the team lost to Italy by a score of 78-95. Then at the Olympics they lost to Lithuania and Argentina. The most disappointing loss of all was to Puerto Rico. They lost the game with the biggest point difference in the team’s history, and they were sent home with a bronze medal, rather than the expected gold.


On August 22, 2019, the US men’s olympic team faced Australia in an exhibition game. The match sold out a whole year in advance, and the team had high expectations given the impressive coaching staff. However the match resulted in a 98-94 loss for team USA, leaving fans disappointed since it ended their impressive 78-game win streak. Team USA has continued their losing streak losing back to back games to France and Serbia.  A major factor for the teams failure was the fact that the team only has one former Olympian, Harrison Barnes, and two allstars Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton. The reason the team was lacking talent was because many of the stars who were recruited to play, such as Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry declined the invitation. Many speculate that these players declined the invitation because of the long, physically and mentally draining NBA season. 


Team USA’s olympic success moves in cycles. A win in 1992, followed by a loss in 2004, then another win in 2008. This year, the team had really high expectations, yet based on their 3-3 record, their success does not look promising. What causes this fluctuation is unknown, however there is some speculation. Every year the NBA season becomes more grueling, which means the health of the players is on the line. Because of this, coaches might encourage their players to focus on their off-season progress and sit out on the olympic team, or players might make this decision on their own based off of how they are feeling postseason. Regardless, the NBA’s greatest talents have showed decreased interest in representing their country. Another factor could be the lack of pay. Players feel more inclined to dedicate their efforts to the NBA season because they receive a very generous salary, whereas when they play on the national team, they do not receive any pay. No one knows what is to come for Team USA, but with the disappointment of the 2019 team and based on history, we can hope for improvements in the future.