The 1992 USA Olympic basketball team was dubbed "Dream Team." And, why not? The team featured the golden trio of Michael Jordan (perhaps the most famous person in the world at the time), Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as well as Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen and Christian Laettner (the only college player). Chuck Daly was the coach. Author Jack McCallum describes the team as "a collection of immortals gathered in one place at one time."
The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona marked the first time professional athletes could compete. The challenge, however, was to convince the NBA's best players to sacrifice their summer, compete as a team and to do it essentially for free.
McCallum, who covered the NBA and the Dream Team for Sports Illustrated, details how the Dream Team was selected and profiles each player He also writes about the efforts to keep Isiah Thomas off the team. Jordan, who wielded immense power, despised Thomas and didn't want him on the team. And, it was more important to make Jordan happy than any thing else. Even though Thomas was the best player on the Detroit Pistons, who had won back-to-back NBA championships, he was not a Dream Team member.
Although Bird, who was on the verge of retirement because of a bad back, and Magic, who had recently announced he had HIV and faced an uncertain NBA future, were co-captains, Jordan was the team's kingpin.
The inevitable question for a team like the Dream Team is "How do you play with just one basketball?" Incredibly, that was not a problem. Magic and Jordan made it clear from the beginning that there would be no problem with playing time. "We're here to win," they said. And, it was true. No member of the Dream Team ever looked at a stat sheet. Coach Daly vowed he would never call a time out because there was nothing he could tell the team that they couldn't figure out on their own. And, he kept his word.
Did anyone seriously think that any country could beat the Dream Team? The Dream Team was never challenged. It defeated eight opponents in the Olympics by an average margin of 43.8 points, including a 117-85 win over Croatia for the gold medal.
Since McCallum covered the NBA and the Dream Team, this is a highly personal account. He does an excellent job of capturing the buzz and excitement the Dream Team generated among fans and the media. The reader gets an insider's view of all the trash talking, banter and ribbing among the Dream Team members as well as their off-the-court activities. McCallum also interviewed each Dream Team member face-to-face nearly 20 years after the 1992 Olympics as part of the book. The reflections of team members nearly two decades later are valuable and insightful.
McCallum in deed makes a strong case that the 1992 Dream Team did change basketball forever. Lithuania's Sarunas Marciulionis said, "Dream Team was the single biggest impact of any team in any sport in history."
Magic Johnson said, "The Dream Team is No. 1 of anything I've done in basketball because there will never be another team like it. There can't be."
I was 8 years old when the Dream Team played in Barcelona. I remember thinking about how great the team was. After following the NBA quite closely this past year, I had lost touch on how great the team was, specifically how great Michael Jordan was. In this book, you get to really understand how great Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, et al. are.
While getting to understand the greatness of the team is valuable, the best part of the book is the behind the scenes look. We get to see the human side of the players without getting into exploitative tabloid news. We see how Michael Jordan's competitive nature allowed him to play 36 holes of golf and then come out and play excellent defense on Toni Kukoc (the game against Croatia). We get to see how hard it was for Pippen to be in Michael's shadow. We get to learn about Bird's back problems, Magic Johnson's controversial revelation of having AIDS. We get to read about the controversy surrounding not taking Isiah Thomas to Barcelona, the difficulty of Christian Laettner being the only college player on the team.
There's a lot of great stuff in the book, so I'll just mention two more things which I think deserve their own paragraph in the review:
1) The book talks about the difficulty in getting the Olympics to accept professional basketball players. In particular, it talks about the plight of the "Inspector of Meat" to convince the bureaucracy of both the Olympics and the NBA to join in and allow this team to form. It was a great time for basketball as Magic and Larry had saved the league, followed by the strengthening of it with Michael's excellence. It was well worth the read to find out about these deals and learn about how great things need the work of many people in many different areas.
2) The Dream Team inner scrimmage chapter is astounding. The Dream team plays against each other, 5 on 5 (Stockton and Drexler were hurt). Magic and Jordan, are the leaders of their own team and the description of the game is superb. The trash talk, the excitement, I felt like I was in the court watching the game. In particular, I love the one play where Bird scores (after stealing the ball from Magic) and how Jordan remembers that play. It is a great chapter that helps one understand the competitiveness of Jordan and Magic and the love for the game that all the Dream Teamers had. I love the respect they have for each other.
In summary, the book is an astounding behind the scenes look at one of the best teams of all time (and one of the most influential).
on May 3, 2014
Reading Dream Team brought me back to when I was a 14 year old getting to enjoy all the great legends of the NBA at the time on the same team. Getting to watch those great names in action was always such a treat, especially being a Bulls fan and having the privilege of watching MJ and Scottie do their thing on both ends of the court. But in Dream Team, Jack McCallum gives a behind the scenes look at how it all came to be and the controversies and alliances that formed after the team was assembled. I only wish he had given more details on the specifics of the games, but the section on the scrimmage between the players on the team was fun reading and really page-turning. Apparently Michael and Magic didn't always get along when it came to winning and losing.
This was truly the greatest basketball team ever assembled, and this is the definitive account of that.
on August 9, 2012
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.
on January 25, 2015
Amazingly detailed account of the Dream Team & how they were formed. Who would've thought that the idea of putting NBA players didn''t come from America but from Europe? Some little knows facts pop up every now and then which are invaluable as insights. We get a look into the politics that might have played around in the background. We get a detailed account of each and every player in the dream team too, and how in spite of being competitors they really came together to form one hell of an amazing team. then we see how this affected basketball for the whole world and really took the game to the next level internationally. Brilliant book
on March 1, 2015
I was finally able to pick up Jack McCallum's Dream Team book which was published in 2013. I've looked forward to this for quite a while and snagged a used book through Amazon. The book chronicles the 1992 Dream Team which allowed NBA players to participate in the Olympics for the first time as a reaction to college players not winning gold in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. McCallum doesn't disappoint as he chronicles the forming of the team, the behind the scenes that made that possible, the marketing, international impacts and most importantly the players themselves. From who wanted to be on the team, to who was selected and why, their relationships and stardom in Barcelona that transcended the lives these players already lived. I love the back stories the behind the scenes goodies and this book delivered.
About the only thing this book won't provide is detailed analysis of the games themselves but they don't deserver to be front and center. They weren't as important as the players and the stories. The one game that stands out the most when the Dream Team is brought up is a scrimmage the team had which pitted Michael Jordan dueling Magic Johnson. That was more important than the drubbing the team laid upon opponent after opponent. Bottom line is I loved this book. If you are an NBA fan of any sort this is an easy read. The world's greatest players were on this team. All, sans college player Christian Laettner, were future hall of famers and had either led the revival of the NBA (Magic Johnson and Larry Bird) or helped build on the momentum through 1992. But not only were they great players, many were great personalities. Some were exactly as I've known (John Stockton, Chris Mullin) but some surprised me some (Patrick Ewing). It was great getting to know these players on a different level. McCallum spoke to every player, coach, executive, competitor, or other writers who could bring the story more to life. And it came together wonderfully. Every NBA fan needs to read this book.
on February 18, 2016
As an avid basketball fan and player, I loved this book. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has a love for the game. If you are not a basketball fan, this probably is not the book for you.
Jack McCallum had the unique opportunity to ride along with the Dream Team through its wild ups and (very few) downs. His firsthand accord of what happened in practices, games, and locker rooms is fantastic. He obviously established personal relationships with most of the players on the team. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Christian Laettner and Scottie Pippen. His details about the coaching staff (especially Coach K) kept me itching for more. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a reporter, and McCallum perspicaciously soaked it all in.
The writing in the book is very strong. His use of prose and varying sentence structure was refreshing. As a reader, you could tell this isnt the writer's first rodeo. The only thing I would change would be the length of the book. Certain chapters ran a little long, but didnt necessarily take away from the enjoyment of the book.
on December 6, 2013
If you watched the special about the Dream Team on television (NBA TV June 2012) you got many of the best parts of this book. It follows a writer as he travels with the dream team from the backlash of the Olympic committee to put the team together and the initial concept all the way to them leaving Barcelona to head back to the US. Without spoiling anything the most interesting parts of the book to me were the introductions for each player (and head coach Chuck Daly) in the book, their free time while in Barcelona, and anything mentioning Barkley.
on December 1, 2012
The greatest strength of this book is the reporting: the eyewitness accounts, and the thorough interviews and research used to create a full, coherent, and engaging story. After years of covering the NBA, McCallum had gotten to know many of the Dream Team players, and so he was able to tell a fast-paced and balanced composite of that summer of 1992, but also provide context before and after to really fill out the narrative. The book is tight, packed with insider details, and reads blazingly fast (I raced through it in two days), so for NBA fans, it's a slam dunk.
The two reasons I would only recommend it to NBA fans are these: the writing is workmanlike, journalistic, in that it mostly just moves the story along and gets out of the way. (That is, non-fiction writers looking to improve their craft will not find much to relish in terms of language.) The second critique is that the book rarely pauses from the play-by-play to reflect on how these actions and events shed light on humanity at large--something I would say that great non-fiction (such as Andre Agassi's Open, for example) does. So for this latter reason in particular, the book would exclude itself from general interest.
But if all you're asking of the book is a rollicking ride down basketball memory lane, you'll be quite satisfied.
on September 10, 2014
I thought this would be a pleasant, light read, and it's so much more. Rather than rehash or expand modestly on the same stories that were reported when the Dream Team was built in 1992, McCallum talks decades later to the stars and other key figures involved and unearths one untold story after another, in a candor those players probably could never have shared back in 1992. The complex maneuvering to keep Isiah Thomas off the team could nearly have been the basis for a book in itself, but McCallum crams this wonderful book with far, far more. Enjoy.