TWENTY-ONE years after the greatest collection of NBA talent played for the United States for the first time in the Olympics, American legend Larry Bird said the 'Dream Team' experience changed the way basketball was played all over the world - for the better.
Bird, a member of that fabled 'Dream Team' in the Barcelona Olympics that is still considered the best group of basketball players ever assembled, said basketball’s globalization began in 1992 when the American stars showed everyone how the game was played.
“If you remember, back in 1992, the one thing that I was told before we decided to get together and play in the Olympics was, 'You can change the game of basketball in the whole world if you guys do this,'" said Bird during a press conference on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"And what they meant by that is, if we go over there (in Barcelona) and dominate, everybody else in the world will say we got to get better,” Bird added.
Aside from Bird, other members of that iconic 1992 team are Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton and lone amateur player Christian Laettner.
True enough, the world, particularly countries in Europe and Asia, learned from that experience and in no time was giving succeeding teams of NBA stars a run for their money.
Argentina, for one, dealt an 87-80 beating to the NBA-bannered US team in the second round of the 2002 World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis, before Yugoslavia knocked the Americans out of gold medal contention with an 81-78 quarterfinal win.
Spain completed the United States’ humiliation on home soil by prevailing, 81-75 in the battle for fifth place.
Bird, who is in the country for the preaseason game between Houston and Indiana on Thursday in his capacity as the Pacers' president of basketball operations, said the improvements made by other countries over the years reflected the impact of that 1992 experience.
“That’s the one thing I’ve seen in the last 20 years, that everybody’s gotten better, not just US or China. Everybody in the world of basketball has gotten better and that’s because of what happened in 1992. Because if they didn’t get better, USA was gonna dominate forever,” explained the 2012 NBA Executive of the Year.
“Now what I’ve seen in last 15 or 18 years, everyone we get beat, and we get beat is because of what happened in 1992.”