"Redeem Team" will be challenged to rank with top U.S. Olympic performances

"Redeem Team" will be challenged to rank with top U.S. Olympic performances
TRI rates five best of all time
by Truman Reed / special to Bucks.com

Truman Reed rates Michael Jordan's 1992 U.S. team from the Barcelona Olympics as the greatest Team USA squad of all time. (Getty)
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August 7, 2008

If oddsmakers are on the money, the United States men's basketball team (aka "The Redeem Team") will bring home the gold medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

And if the Americans can accomplish their mission, they will help to heal the national pride that absorbed a painful bruise when Team USA was relegated to Olympic bronze in the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece.

Since Olympic men's basketball competition began in 1936, the United States is 114-5. The Americans have captured 12 gold medals and one silver and settled for two bronzes (in 1988 and 2004).

Judging by the devastating performance coach Mike Krzyzewski's crew staged in winning the Olympic-qualifying FIBA Tournament of the Americas last summer, some believe it will deliver one of the country's most dominant Olympic basketball performances on record.

For that to happen, Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Redd and his teammates have their work cut out for them.

The following is an Olympic edition of the Truman Reed Index (TRI), which rates the top U.S. Olympic men's basketball performances of all time.


1992 - Gold at Barcelona:

David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr., Christian Laettner

This group didn't earn the moniker "The Dream Team" for nothing.

The U.S. men ushered in a new era of international basketball and were unchallenged in doing so.

International rules, which had previously prevented only NBA players from being eligible for Olympic basketball, were altered by the FIBA membership in 1989 in favor of "open competition." USA Basketball assembled what it deemed the best possible team, and no one could argue with the results.

Coach Chuck Daly's squad sailed through the Olympic qualifying tournament with a 6-0 record, then swept its eight Olympic games in Barcelona by an average margin of 43.8 points. The Americans averaged an Olympic-record 117.3 points, and their closest victory margin was 32 points against Croatia in the gold-medal game.

That Croatian team may have featured one of the best non-American starting fives ever assembled, including five current or future NBA players in Dražen Petroviæ, Toni Kukoè, Dino Radja, Stojko Vrankoviæ and Žan Tabak),

The U.S. also dismantled by 51 points a Lithuanian team that included current NBA guard Sarunas Marciulionis and future NBA center Arvydas Sabonis, considered one of the best European professional players ever.

Daly remarkably never used a timeout during the entire Olympic series.

Barkley led Team USA in scoring with an average of 18 points per game, and Mullin checked in as the second-leading scorer.

Four years later, on the occasion of the NBA's 50th anniversary, 10 of 12 players on "The Dream Team" roster were numbered among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History by a panel of media, former players and coaches, current and former general managers and team executives.

Most believe this cast of icons will never be challenged as the best ever to participate in the Olympics.


1996 (Gold) at Atlanta:

Charles Barkley, Anfernee Hardaway, Grant Hill, Hakee m Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, Mitch Richmond, David Robinson, John Stockton.

Five members of the original Dream Team (Barkley, Malone, Pippen, Robinson and Stockton) made their Olympic return and were joined by two other members of the NBA 50 Greatest Players list in centers Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal. The "rest of the squad" wasn't bad, either.

Coached by Lenny Wilkens, the NBA's all-time winningest coach, the Americans struck gold again, this time going 8-0 and winning by an average spread of 32.3 points. Their narrowest margin was a 23-point triumph over Brazil, and they trounced Yugoslavia in the gold-medal game, 95-69.

Pippen's 24-point performance led seven players in double-digit scoring as "Dream Team II" established four USA Olympic records in routing China, 133-70. The 133 points were the most ever for a U.S. Olympic squad.


1960 (Gold) at Rome:

Jay Arnette, Walt Bellamy, B ob Boozer, Terry Dischinger, Burdette Haldorsson, Darrall Imhoff, Allen Kelley, Lester Lane, Jerry Lucas, Oscar Robertson, Adrian Smith, Jerry West.

The United States' 1960 gold miners didn't boast the star-studded cast of the aforementioned Dream Teams, and the rest of the world hadn't begun to approach the Americans' prowess in the game they invented.

But some Olympic aficionados still contend that the U.S. '60 team is the best in the history of the Games because of the remarkable balance it displayed.

Five USA players averaged in double figures as the team mowed down its eight opponents by an average margin of 42.4 points, scoring 101.9 per game while holding opponents to 59.5.

Coach Pete Newell's outfit couldn't match the depth of stars on the Dream Teams that would dominate the Games three decades later, but 10 of its 12 members went on to play in the NBA, and it did have its own all-time greats.

Oscar Robertson, who would help lead the Milwaukee Bucks to the 1971 NBA championship, would be recognized among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, joining Olympic teammates Jerry Lucas and Jerry West. Robertson and Lucas both averaged 17 points per game during the Americans' eight games in Rome.

Bellamy, one of the United States' pivotmen, went on to score over 20,000 points in the NBA. Boozer also went on to become an NBA All-Star, and was a vital member of the Bucks' 1971 title team.


1984 (Gold) at Los Angeles:

Steve Alford, Leon Wood, Patrick Ewing, Vernon Fleming, Alvin Robertson, Michael Jordan, Joe Kleine, Jon Koncak, Wayman Tisdale, Chris Mullin, Sam Perkins, Jeff Turner

In an answer to the American-led boycott of the 1980 games, most Communist countries (including the Soviet Union) boycotted the 1984 Games in L.A. .

Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, who would become members of the original Dream Team, made their Olympic debuts. With Bob Knight in charge, the Americans rolled to an 8-0 sweep and another Olympic gold.

1984 not only marked the Olympic debut of basketball on its native soil some 93 years after its invention, but the first year in which the same country swept both the men's and women's gold medals in the sport.

Basketball's global development put Team USA to tougher tests than those to which it had grown accustomed. The Americans defeated F.R. Germany by just 11 points and Canada by 19. But they still outscored their eight victims by an average of 32.1 points, made 55.7 percent of their shots and allowed their opponents to sink just 38.9 percent.

Team USA claimed its ninth Olympic title with a 96-65 romp over Spain in the gold-medal game.

Jordan took his first step toward worldwide stardom by averaging a team-best 17.1 points per game. Fellow future Dream Teamer Mullin added 11.6 ppg., and Tisdale led the U.S. on the boards with 6.4 rebounds per game. In a prequel to his Dream Team stint, Ewing was the tournament's leading shot blocker with 18, and Leon Wood, now an NBA referee, handed out a team-leading 63 assists.


1956 (Gold) at Melbourne/Stockholm:

Carl Cain, Bill Hougland, K.C. Jones, Bill Russell, James Walsh, William Evans, Burdette Haldorsson, Ronald Tomsic, Richard Boushka, Gilbert Ford, Robert Jeangerard, Charles Darling.

OK, so maybe there weren't too many household names on the 1956 United States Olympic basketball roster. Of the group, only Bill Russell was recognized among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. And only Russell and K.C. Jones are enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

And basketball was still a relatively new game to players from other corners of the world in 1956.

But the U.S. nonetheless dominated the Games like never before or since, putting on an 8-0, gold-medal performance in which it outscored its competition by 53.5 points per game. The Americans cleared the century mark four times and held four opponents - Japan, Thailand, Bulgaria and Uruguay - to 44 points or less.

The closest game the U.S. played was its sixth, which resulted in an 85-55 win over USSR. The two teams met again in the gold-medal game, and USA prevailed again, 89-55.

Russell and Jones, who had led the University of San Francisco to the 1956 NCAA championship and would go on to become NBA All-Stars with the Boston Celtics, were obviously two of the United States' linchpins. But they didn't always head the '56 U.S. Olympians' scoring column. In fact, Robert Jeangerard and Ronald Tomsic both took at least one turn as the U.S. game-high scorer.

(Team USA will make its 2008 Olympic debut against the host Chinese team at 9:15 a.m. CDT on Sunday, Aug. 10).