Can the 2012 U.S. national men’s basketball team beat 1992’s original Dream Team?

That question has been the hottest sports topic of discussion throughout the past week, and it all started when Kobe Bryant, a member of the 2012 Team USA squad told reporters that his team could take out the Dream Team.

Since then, several pundits have labeled Bryant’s comments ridiculous. Nonsense, they say. Even Michael Jordan, easily the best player of the ‘92 team and arguably the greatest player ever, dismissed Bryant’s claims by laughing at them when a reporter brought them to his attention.

But what’s even funnier is that if both teams actually did face off, Bryant would not only have the last laugh, but I believe that Jordan knows deep down inside that Kobe is right.

Most sports columnists and National Basketball Association (NBA) experts that have debated this topic have all seemed to agree about the same thing: they all believe that it’s only natural for Kobe to say that any team that he plays for would win the game. They all believe that Kobe’s fierce competitive nature wouldn’t allow him to admit that he could lose to anyone.

I agree. That same competitive spirit helped him win five NBA titles with 14 All-Star Game appearances.

But I also think the same of six-time NBA champ Michael Jordan. I think Jordan’s competitive ego is worst than Kobe’s and he’d never admit to the possibility of losing either.

So if both Kobe and MJ are both calling each other’s bluff, who would actually win?

After careful deliberation, I’d have to go with Kobe’s 2012 squad.

Bryant explained both the advantages and disadvantages the 2012 team would have against the Dream Team.

“Well, just from a basketball standpoint, obviously have a lot more size than we do—you know, with (David) Robinson and (Patrick) Ewing and (Karl) Malone and those guys,” Bryant told reporters in Las Vegas during the Team USA’s practice. “But they were also —some of those wing players—were also a lot older, at kind of the end of their careers. We have just a bunch of young racehorses, guys that are eager to compete. So I don’t know. It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”

The young “racehorses” Kobe mentioned includes reigning NBA Finals MVP LeBron James, three-time NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant, and five-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony. Each of these three forwards stands at least six feet eight inches tall, and can not only dominate from the wing but can also bang with the big boys down in the paint.

Malone, Ewing and Robinson of the “Dream Team” each stand nearly seven feet tall so their size would give the 2012 squad problems, just as Kobe hinted. The only seven-footer on the 2012 team is New York Knicks starting center Tyson Chandler, who won Defensive Player of the Year last season and helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA title. I have no doubt that Chandler would hold his own against the Dream Team’s big boys. Chandler can’t guard them all by himself, but he could contain Robinson.

Malone, Ewing and even Charles Barkley, one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history, would have an advantage over the 2012 team’s power forwards, consisting of former Kentucky University star forward/center Anthony Davis and Minnesota Timberwolves star forward/center Kevin Love.

But let’s not act like Love and Davis are bums. Davis, the National College Player of the Year, was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft and is expected to develop into a combination of Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, arguably the two best power forwards to ever play basketball. Love didn’t receive the same hype Davis did when he was drafted into the NBA in 2008, but he has made a great impact within his first four years in the league, earning two trips to the NBA All-Star game while averaging 26 points with 15 rebounds last season.

Love’s 26 points and 15 rebounds matches Barkley’s career-highs of 25 points and 12 rebounds averaged during the 1993 season when he won the NBA’s MVP award. Barkley stood six-feet six inches tall, weighing 250 pounds during his prime, while Love stands six-feet 10-inches tall at 260 pounds; with those measurements, it’s safe to assume Love could hold his own against Barkley.

With all that being said, the 2012 team’s weakness in size doesn’t appear as much of a disadvantage as initially thought. Meanwhile, the Dream Team still has its weakness in old age, especially on the wing.

Besides Jordan and his former Chicago Bulls running mate Scottie Pippen, every other wing player for the Dream Team was either too old or outmatched to stand a chance defending the 2012 team’s wing players.

Larry Bird, a co-captain of ’92 team, is one of the all-time greats when it comes to pro basketball, but he would have been too old defending young stars like LeBron, Carmelo and Durant. The same thing can be said about Clyde “the Glide” Drexler; he was great player, but he would have been embarrassed trying to guard the young run-and-gunners of this summer’s Olympic team. And same goes for Dream Team reservist Chris Mullen.

The Dream Team had who I believe is the greatest point guard to ever play basketball in Magic Johnson, but he was also too old at that point of his career to defend the star point guards of the 2012 team, which includes Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook. And Magic’s backup, John Stockton, would have been “cooked” trying to defend Paul, Williams and Westbrook, too.

It’s hard for any basketball fan over the age of 30 to believe that the Dream Team would lose to anyone. That’s like telling me as a child that Superman would lose in a fight to the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers. I grew up watching Superman beat everyone so I don’t want to hear anything about anyone being able to take down the greatest super hero of all time.

But contrary to their phenomenal abilities on the court, basketball players aren’t super heroes; they’re humans. And humans can’t escape Father Time. We all get old and we all get beaten.

And the same would have happened to the team we remember as the Dream Team. 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor