The 1992 U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball Team is one of the best-known sports teams of all time. But the stories behind their story will surprise and entertain hoops fans. The Dream Team is:
-Michael Jordan (Bulls/Chicago). Regarded then--and now--as the best player ever, Michael pushed aside distractions (fallout from alleged gambling problems, his consuming golf habit, his desire to play pro baseball) and agreed to play. But with an ultimatum: he'd play only if Isiah Thomas wasn't on the team.
-Magic Johnson (Lakers/LA). Controversially--since the beloved superstar had recently learned that he had AIDS--Johnson joyfully accepted the invitation and became the team's unquestioned captain.
- Larry Bird (Celtics/Boston). Though it was late in his career and his back was so bad he couldn't walk some days, Bird was encouraged by Magic to join the team. His stoic and unselfish leadership set the tone for the team.
-Charles Barkley (Suns/Phoenix). The most outspoken man in sports almost didn't get invited, since he was viewed as an international incident waiting to happen. The concerns proved well-founded.
-Chris Mullin (Warriors/Oakland). Having recently defeated alcoholism, Mullin was inspired by his selection to the team and used the experience to reaffirm his positive life choices.
- Scottie Pippen (Bulls/Chicago). Having played in Jordan's shadow for years, Pippen saw this as a chance to show off his skills on a larger stage.
-John Stockton (Jazz/Utah). A steady if unexciting player, Stockton was surprised by the invitation...and then nearly had to give it back when he injured his knee.
- Karl Malone (Jazz/Utah). A less-than-social scoring machine, Malone fulfilled his role with the team but would later betray one of his teammates with cruel public comments.
-David Robinson (Spurs/San Antonio). As an astounding athlete and shot blocker, Robinson found his place on the court--but not always in the locker room. His strong religious drive sometimes distanced him from his teammates.
- Patrick Ewing (Knicks/NY). The team's biggest but quietest member, Ewing struck a deep friendship with Bird that helped keep Larry loose.
-Christian Laettner (Duke/North Carolina). The only college player on the team, Laettner struggled to balance appreciating the honor and dealing with his inability to fit in with the guys.
-Clyde Drexler (Rockets/Houston). As the final selection to the team, Drexler would keep a chip on his shoulder until...well, it's still there.
As the Sports Illustrated writer on the Olympic beat in '92, McCallum lived with these guys, drank with them, golfed with them, and laughed with them. Now he takes readers behind the scenes. Privy to gossip, insults, and arguments galore, McCallum uses exclusive quotes and information to paint a vivid picture. He then updates the story with exclusive interviews with all 12 players conducted in the last few months.
McCallum also puts this story in larger context: this was pro basketball's most glorious era, these players were even better than their numbers indicate, and it was inevitable that subsequent "Dream Teams" would never match the original. He also shows how the Dream Team inspired the rest of the world. In '92, current NBA champion Dirk Nowitzki was 14 years old, living in Germany, watching the Olympics--and learning what great basketball looked like.