Kobe leading the We Want Esteem Team

LAS VEGAS –Team USA embarked on a quest for a second consecutive Olympic gold medal Thursday night with a 113-59 victory over a Dominican Republican team that in another era could have been confused with Cuba.

The game concluded a day of concern and comedy that actually began on Wednesday when Kobe Bryant said the 2012 Olympic team could beat the 1992 Dream Team, thereby leading some to suggest the current team will now be called the We-Want-Esteem-Team.

Bryant’s musings sent outlets scurrying for responses, which were predictable. Michael Jordan was dismissive. Charles Barkley said no more than three current members of the team could have made the Dream Team. Magic Johnson tweeted that he laughed.

And somewhere Oscar Robertson is seething, thinking to himself, “What about me, Jerry West and the 1960 team? We could have taken these guys.”

The debate has largely missed the point because anyone can see that the current team would easily beat any of the past Olympic teams.

Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo, KD, etc. vs. Michael, Magic, Larry and Charles? No contest.

Kobe is 33, LeBron James is 27, Carmelo Anthony is 28 and Kevin Durant is 23.

Now look at the Dream Team. Michael and Charles are 49, Magic is 52 and Larry Bird is 55.

Case closed. Kobe is correct. The young guys could beat the ’92 team easily.

Presumably, however, Bryant was assuming that some sort of time machine could be found and both teams would meet in their prime. And, predictably, that led to one of those silly sports discussions that is presented so seriously but actually is quite stupid and has no definitive answer.

Dream Team would win? Fine.

Current team would win? OK with that, too.

We will never know.

So other than the sport of arguing, why even spend time on it? And if you are going to engage in such an argument, the 1996 team with Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Grant Hill, Gary Payton and Reggie Miller should be in the discussion.

The Dream Team cannot be matched as a cultural icon. Not only 11 members are in the Hall of Fame, but because of them, the popularity of basketball also exploded all over the world. Bryant knows that. Everybody does.

(To see the original column that appeared on Sheridanhoops.com, click here.)

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