If you ask Kobe Bryant whether his team could beat another team, and expect to hear no – you, my friend, have not been paying attention. Nothing Kobe has ever said or done throughout his career suggests that he would ever admit that a team he was playing on could lose; let alone a team where he is surrounding by the best players in the world.
Kobe created instant controversy this week when he told reporters that this current team could beat the Dream Team in a hypothetical matchup (imagine the ratings on that game). I know, this claim sounds like blasphemy. That team was the stuff of lore. Jordan, Magic, Bird. Routing opponents by 50 points on a nightly basis. Opponents asking for autographs. Heck, they even had an incredible documentary released about them recently. However, if you’re able to get past that image of invincibility and concentrate on the basketball side of things, Kobe’s claim is not unreasonable.
First off, I admit that I would be more comfortable comparing the 2008 team to the Dream Team than this current team. Kobe was still in his prime back in 2008. Dwayne Wade was on that team and had the best year of his career. Those two factors are vital, because against guys like Jordan and Magic, you need stars with killer instinct. On the other hand, this team has a better version of Lebron-one that finally got over the hump of winning a title. This team also has Kevin Durant, who is an automatic two points at anytime.
Obviously the biggest reason most people will pick the Dream Team over this year’s team is MJ. Jordan at 29 years old, in his absolute prime, was the greatest basketball player ever seen. He was just coming off his second straight championship, and had just destroyed Clyde Drexler in the finals. It is inconceivable that any team with Michael Jordan in his prime could lose. At that point, Jordan had developed a deadly midrange game but still had most of his athleticism. Basically he was unguardable. This is where Kobe’s age becomes an issue. A 29-year-old Kobe would have absolutely kept up with Jordan, in fact, they would essentially cancel each other out. However, a 33-year-old Kobe would not be able to keep up with Jordan. Lebron would probably have to guard Jordan, and I’m not sure he could do it.
Another big advantage the Dream Team would have is in the post. Charles Barkley and Karl Malone would destroy anyone playing power forward for the 2012 team. In addition, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing would be too much for Tyson Chandler to handle, especially since he is the only center on the roster.
However, that is where the advantages for the Dream Team end. Remember, Bird and Magic were at the end of their careers. Christian Laettner was coming straight out of college.
The speed of the 2012 team would be an overwhelming advantage and create numerous mismatches. The Dream Team had two great perimeter defenders, Jordan and Pippen, but the 2012 team can put up to four players on the court that create mismatches. Let’s say Pippen guards Durant, then who guards Lebron? Let’s say that Jordan guards Lebron, then who guards Kobe? Who is going to stay in front of Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul? Surely not Magic or Stockton. While Barkley and Malone could punish the 2012 team on the block, there is no way either could check Lebron or Carmelo Anthony. Neither Malone nor Barkley are used to a near 7-footer shooting threes (Kevin Love). The 2012 team could turn the game into an absolute track meet. While Magic may love that style of play, it would neutralize the Dream Team’s size advantage. Plus I’m not sure there was much magic in Earvin at that point.
So while it is hard to pick against any team with Jordan on it, Kobe’s claim is not ludicrous. Remember, he said “I think we’d pull it out,” and not ‘we would kill them.’ If you were expecting a different answer, then you haven’t been paying attention.