The Greatest U.S.A. Basketball Team Ever

Here’s the concept. Select a 12-man roster, choosing only from players who’ve competed in Olympic basketball for Team USA, since 1992.

1. Magic Johnson (Point Guard)

Many experts consider Magic Johnson to be the greatest basketball player of all time. Fully capable of fulfilling any position on the court, Johnson was proficient in every facet of the game. Magic could pass, shoot, play defense, and most importantly — he was clutch, delivering important baskets when they were needed. While his NBA career was cut short in 1991 due to HIV, Johnson played for the Dream Team in 1992. Seriously, this man was amazing on the hardwood, and the nickname Magic was so very fitting.

2. John Stockton (Point Guard)

The NBA’s all-time leader in assists (by a margin of more than 4,000) and steals; Stockton is one of the greatest point guards ever. Known for his short-shorts, hard-nosed gameplay and toughness, he had an old-school reputation over his 19-year, Hall-of-Fame career.

3. Michael Jordan (Shooting Guard)

The most popular basketball player in the world, Michael Jordan would be the head of this superstar jam-packed team. MJ did it all, winning six NBA Championships, five Most Valuable Player awards, playing in 14 NBA All-star games and making the beloved movie, Space Jam. With the cocky-but-he-backs-it-up confidence (see video in which he makes a free throw with closed eyes) and leadership of Jordan, this all-time Dream Team would be a force to be reckoned with.

4. Kobe Bryant (Shooting Guard)

Since Michael Jordan retired, nobody has drawn more comparisons to him than Kobe. Bryant is a prolific scorer, great leader, highly competitive and extremely proficient in the most crucial of times. At the 2008 Olympic Games, when team USA was engaged in a close Championship showdown against Spain, Kobe put the team on his back and delivered a flurry of buckets, that led to a gold medal victory. Check out the video of his leadership and dominance, in a game where the stakes were high and the world was watching.

5. Larry Bird (Small Forward)

Bird, alongside Magic Johnson, invigorated and refreshed the NBA in the 80s, after it had struggled during the 70s. Bird was capable of hitting a shot from just about anywhere on the court, and like Jordan, Magic and Bryant, he was tremendously reliable for late-in-the-game, important moments. His basketball IQ would be a necessity for any team, especially one of this caliber. Larry Bird is the only player in NBA history to win MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year — which speaks volumes to his winner-complex.

6. LeBron James (Small Forward)

Since his high school days, spotlights, scrutiny and colossal expectations have surrounded LeBron James. To live up to those is no simple task. His skills and size are similar to Magic Johnson’s, but his leaping abilities (look above), speed, and general athleticism are a one-of-a-kind combination. LeBron is capable of scoring, passing, rebounding or defending any player on the court. When his career is done, he’ll likely have some of the greatest statistics ever, and it’d be foolish not to include him on this team of elites.

7. Scottie Pippen (Small Forward)

Widely known as the greatest defender of his position, ever — Scottie was a massive part of Michael Jordan’s success with the Bulls. Pippen would be needed for an all-time Dream Team to guard the opponents best players, and possibly deliver the occasional dunk on someone’s face — as seen above.

8. Karl Malone (Power Forward)

Over his career, Malone scored the second most points of anyone in NBA history, tallying 36,928. Not to mention he shot, and made, the most free throws of any player, ever. Nicknamed “The Mailman” he won gold with Team USA in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. In addition, Malone was one of the tougher guys in the league, often playing a rougher brand of basketball that some considered dirty.

9. Charles Barkley (Power Forward)

On the original 1992 Dream Team, it was Chuck who led the squad in scoring, averaging 18 points per game. Barkley was undersized, but his toughness, strength, and sheer force used to score and rebound, are qualities a team would benefit from. Aside from his basketball abilities, Charles Barkley has always been highly entertaining. Whether it was on court scuffles, controversial quotes, or hilarious antics — he became a popular topic of discussion amongst basketball fans all over.

10. Tim Duncan (power Forward)

Arguably the greatest Power Forward of all time, Tim Duncan brings NBA championship experience, leadership, and the ability to score and defend with the most fundamentally sound techniques. He’s not flashy, not a trash talker, and not much of a celebrator — but he is a winner. Duncan is exactly what franchises want in a player, on and off the court.

11. Hakeem Olajuwon (Center)

Michael Jordan once said that if he had to pick a Center (for a best all-time team) he’d take Olajuwon — that alone is validation. Hakeem was a skilled big man, known for his amazing footwork, and a move that tricked opponents, called the “Dream Shake.” He has the most career blocks in NBA history, but that’s in addition to being one of the best ever in points, rebounds and steals as well.

12. Shaquille O’Neal (Center)

At 7’1″, Shaq is one of the most dominant big men of all time. His astounding strength (e.g. shattering the backboard or pulling down the rim) was unstoppable at times. O’Neal overpowered his way to over 28,000 career points and over 13,000 rebounds. Shaq also played for the 1996 Dream Team, where he won gold alongside a couple of others mentioned on this list. His size would make for a great foundation the team could build on.

Aside from 6’1 John Stockton, this team has players no shorter than 6’6, which makes for a rather large squad. Their undersized opponents would be outmatched in speed, skill, strength and just about any other phase of the game. This theoretical, Ultimate Dream Team likely wins the gold in dominant fashion — no matter who they’re up against. TC Mark

image – Wikipedia

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  • Flex

    Dwayne Wade needs to be somewhere on that list, swap stockton for carmelo

    • Mat Lewis

      You’re a retard. Stockton is a PG while Carmelo is a SF. Also, Stockton is probably the best PG of all time, while Carmelo probably won’t even make the hall of fame.

      Dwayne Wade is a good player, but not even top 5 all-time at his position. There certainly isn’t room for him on this list, since everyone on it is clearly better than him.

      Let me guess. You’re like 14 years old and never watched any 90s or earlier basketball.

  • http://gabydunnthoughtcatalog.wordpress.com Gaby Dunn

    Larry Biiiiiird. Yes.

  • http://twitter.com/THISiSMARKC Mark. (@THISiSMARKC)

    no dwight howard?

    • http://deleted Mat Lewis

      Nope, no Dwight Howard. Just because he is fairly dominant now means little…he has zero competition. It’s quite similar to Shaq suddenly becoming dominant once the rest of the 90s big men retired, and even he had more competition than Howard has now.

      Howard isn’t even close to being a top 5 center, let alone in the top 2 or 3. Guys like Olajuwon, Robinson, Shaq and Ewing would absolutely destroy him.

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    […] The Greatest U.S.A. Basketball Team Ever, by Christopher Hudspeth, Thought Catalog.  If you could pick a 12-man roster from every U.S. Olympic team since 1992, who would make the cut? Personally, I’d have Chris Paul and Kevin Durant instead of Karl Malone and John Stockton, but it’s an interesting idea.  […]

  • http://twitter.com/glasspopcorn Glasspopcorn

    By far the best article I’ve ever read on Thought Catalog. Most of the content on this website that I’ve read has been either comically pretentious caricature of contemporary “alt-lit” or just petty and squabblish, but this article is contemporary literature as it should be – conceptually cohesive and emotionally progressive. Kudos.

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  • balla boy

    WHY WOULD ANYONE CHOOSE HAKEEM AND SHAQ OVER WILT AND KAREEM? CAN WE DISCUSS THIS??!?!?! WILT CHAMBERLAIN AND KAREEM WERE CLEARLY MORE DOMINANT CENTERS THAN EITHER OF THESE TWO. HAKEEM MAY HAVE HAD FINESSE, BUT KAREEM IS A MORE DOMINANT CENTER, AND MORE TRADITIONAL OF A CENTER, AND DO I EVEN NEED TO COMMENT ON WHY WILT SHOULD BE ON THIS TEAM? HE SCORED FREAKIN 100 POINTS IN A GAME. YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS, YOU PUT LEBRON IN THERE, WHAT HAS HE ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR LOL. HOW ARE YOU GONNA JUSTIFY THIS TO ME. PLEASE JUSTIFY THIS. THANK YOU LOL. LOL

    • Read the description at the top.

      Olympic players since THE 1992 DREAM TEAM. No Kareem or Wilt.

    • http://deleted Mat Lewis

      Hakeem is easily the best center of all time, due to his incredible skills on both ends of the floor. However, I agree that Shaq is better than Wilt, but I would put Kareem over him. Remember, Wilt Chamberlain had virtually no competition and was a giant compared to everyone else at the time.

      Also, typing in all caps completely undermines any arguments you may have and makes you look like a 5-year-old.

  • Khan13

    I am going to assume that the “swap Stockton for Carmelo” comment was either a joke, or written by someone under the age of 16. I agreee that it is harsh to leave off Wilt and Kareem, but it’s hard to make the argument that Shaq and Hakeem don’t deserve to be there.

    • balla boy

      Wilt is like a better version of Shaq, not in terms of team achievement, but individual achievement he was a beast. In this day and age, Wilt wouldn’t have been able to score as much as he did, but he would have been more dominant. Hakeem and Kareem is almost a toss up, but Kareem is definitely better, would go as far as to call him as the goat of centers

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