Jordan was a great ping pong player, but Christian Laettner beat him often
The players had a lot of down time in Barcelona, during which they did little more than stay at their hotel. They played cards, drank beers, played pool, and just hung out with their families, mostly. But ping pong games became especially competitive. And if Jordan was playing it went even further. Except Laettner was better than him, no matter how hard Jordan worked at it.
An even bigger surprise? NBA Commissioner David Stern was Laettner's "toughest opponent by far," the former Dukie admits.
There would've never been The Dream Team were it not for a Yugoslavian meat inspector
Boris Stankovic was a former European pro basketball player and coach turned meat/cheese inspector who came to the U.S. to study the American game during the 1970s. He quickly realized the best players in the world had to participate in the Olympics ASAP.
Although it took a while for Stankovic's dream to come true, it wasn't David Stern or the NBA's brain child as many have come to believe.
Michael Jordan had incredible amounts of power. He even had a say in who made the team
USA Basketball committee member Rod Thorn (same guy who drafted MJ) made it clear to McCallum that "no one would be on the team if Jordan didn't want him on the team."
Magic Johnson admits as much too:
"Michael was all about who was going to be on the team. It was more important...no, make that just as important, for Michael to have a good time as it was to play games."
Sharp-shooting guard Chris Mullin had no idea Charles Barkley even played basketball the first time they met
The meeting happened ten years before the 1992 games. Here's what Mullin says:
"[He] was real interested that I came from there, almost like—I hesitate to say it—a fan. I swear to God, I thought he was working for the basketball organization or something, maybe like a manager. I did not know he was a player."
"And then we started playing and there's this fat kid jumping out of the gym and ... I mean, I never saw anything like it."
Michael Jordan once injured Patrick Ewing by putting him in a headlock
He was goofing off with Patrick Ewing during preparation for the 1984 Olympics when he got the taller, future Knicks star in a big headlock.
Ewing describes what it was like not being able to even move his neck the next morning:
"So I sat out, man, Coach Knight was mad. But only at me. Michael? Nothing happened to him. Nothing ever happened to Michael."
The most glaring Dream Team exclusion was Isiah Thomas, primarily because Jordan didn't want him there
But there was an influential person who could've argued for his inclusion but chose not to.
Detroit Pistons GM Jack McCloskey may have quit the USA Basketball committee in protest of Thomas' exclusion, but he never pushed for his inclusion at any point in time, either.
Patrick Ewing grew up in Massachusetts a big fan of Bill Russell's Boston Celtics teams but hated Larry Bird, until meeting him later in life
"He didn't explain why. He didn't have to. The Celtics were the white team and Bird the white leader"
The idea that Magic's 'Showtime' Lakers were always loads of fun and Larry Bird's Celtics were boring is false
McCallum writes that head coach Pat Riley eventually sucked all the fun out of LA and many of its stars were boring to begin with, i.e. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.
Meanwhile, Boston's practices were open to media. Players were usually real loose and just "winging it."
Clyde Drexler still holds some resentment toward Magic regarding his Dream Team and 1992 NBA All-Star Game inclusion
In a jarring quote, Drexler said, "Everybody kept waiting for Magic to die. Every time he'd run up the court everybody would feel sorry for the guy, and he'd get all that benefit of the doubt."
He added that he would have won MVP of the '92 All-Star Game if it hadn't been for Magic.
Scottie Pippen had the unlikeliest journey to The Dream Team out of everyone
Everyone on The Dream Team was bound for greatness from an early age. They were all can't miss amateurs with one logical end game: basketball stardom.
Pippen, on the other hand, was a late bloomer who played college ball at a small NAIA school via a work-study grant, not a full ride at a big time school. When the Bulls drafted Pippen in the early first round, many figured they had severely reached for him.
The key to Dream Team head coach Chuck Daly's success can be summed up in this one Coach K anecdote
Daley told his assistants, "The first thing I want you to do is learn to ... ignore."
There's no telling how effective this attitude was, seeing as the players' many off the court and practice antics did nothing to derail their gold medal hopes. It has also proven invaluable 20 years later as Coach K leads a new group of NBA players to Olympic gold.
No one put The Dream Team's dominance and star power into greater perspective than Charles Barkley
Barkley on having to guard Brazilian superstar Oscar Schmidt:
"Ooh, Oscar Schmidt! I'm shaking in my boots. I guard Larry Bird and James Worthy and Kevin McHale and Dominique Wilkins and a dozen other guys during the season. Why the fuck would I be worried about Oscar Schmidt?"
If you think things were always super rosy with this group, think again. There were enough prima-donnas on this team to spell eventual doom
The Dream Team has always been viewed as this perfect group that meshed without any issues, but Larry Bird says that isn't quite the case.
"If we would've been together another two weeks, we would've had some problems. You could sense it. You could hear it. 'Oh, man, I only got to play fifteen minutes.' 'Oh, man, Chuck didn't use me enough.' I always told everybody, 'Damn, it doesn't matter. We're winning by forty points. Hell, Michael Jordan's only playing twenty minutes.' Yup, I was glad it was over when it was."
Sounds more like those "I want mine" Olympic teams from 1996 and 2004, no?
David Robinson was the clear outsider on this team
As much as he tried to be just one of the guys and take part in all of their horse play and jock antics, Robinson never quite fit in.
He never had the same "thirst-for-blood" competitive spirit guys like MJ, Magic, Bird, and Barkley did.
His strong religious faith, although never presented to his teammates in a preachy way, also kept Robinson from joining "the club."
To this day, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski tears up when remembering the respect Michael Jordan showed toward him when he was an assistant on The Dream Team
"Michael didn't have to do that. It was his way of saying, 'You're important and none of that other bullshit means anything. We're all on the same team."
That "bullshit" being Jordan's deep love for UNC and hatred toward rival Duke.
The most popular t-shirt at the 1992 games was not anything featuring The Dream Team
Instead, Lithuania's "stoned-out, psychedelic masterpiece splashed with the nation's official colors of green, red, and yellow and anchored by the Grateful Dead's skeleton symbol" t-shirt reigned supreme.
Lithuania only got to the games thanks to funding from small time donors and one big contributor: THE Grateful Dead (pictured), who commissioned the t-shirts in support of the team/country's recent independence from the Soviet Union.