In 1992, Team USA basketball unveiled the Dream Team; led by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, they easily beat opponents by an average of 44 points per game, earning a gold medal and cementing the U.S.'s reputation as king's of the court in the process. So, naturally, we assumed that the U.S. would always win the gold medal, right? But as the game of basketball spread throughout the world, engaging such international players as the Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki and the Houston Rockets' Yao Ming, the talent gap shrunk between home-grown and foreign players. At the same time, there was a complacency in our national program, a sense that we could slap 12 all-stars together, give them a few weeks to practice, and they could dominate any country's best effort.
Things didn't exactly work out that way.
After a 6th place finish at the 2002 FIBA World Championship and a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics, the program was completely overhauled. Jerry Colangelo was named the Managing Director of the Senior National Team, and he changed everything, first having players commit for three years to participate, building a talent pool deep enough to select different rosters for different international competitions, and hiring Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University and a respected team of assistants. Oh, and he got LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to get on board. That helps, too.
At the official unveiling of Team USA a few weeks ago at Rockefeller Center in NYC, the star-studded roster spoke of respect - how to earn it back for the states, allowing them to take their rightful place back on top of the world's international basketball hierarchy. No one claimed ownership over the title, "Redeem Team," but others refused to say it wasn't an apt description of this group. Many have compared this roster to the original Dream Team, but the players have been resistant to such comparisons. This is their team, and they will make their own way.