A Dream To Watch
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Revisionist history will have us believe there is only one true Dream Team, but I traveled with the second pro-driven USA Basketball team to Toronto for the 1994 World Championships and I distinctly remember EVERYBODY referring to them as Dream Team II.
And though there were a couple instances where some players got labeled as "ugly Americans" for their trash-talking ways, the rest of the tournament was nothing but a dream for this team of amazing Americans that went 8-0 and won by a 33 point-per-game margin.
When I saw Don Nelson and Reggie Miller inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday, I was transported back to that time 18 years ago, when both Coach and Player were at the pinnacles of their illustrious careers.
Miller was beginning his 1994 NBA Playoff run as the game's most clutch postseason performer, where he led his Indiana Pacers to the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and went toe-to-toe with the New York Knicks and super fan Spike Lee. So his star was in ultimate shine at the 1994 World Championships, when the 6-7 shooting guard was USA Basketball's second-leading scorer--only behind Shaquille O'Neal--averaging 17 points per game, shooting 53 percent from the field and making 19 of 20 free throws.
Nelson, too, was at the height of success, coming off a 50-win season with his Golden State Warriors after making his 13th postseason coaching appearance (he would finish with 18 playoff runs as a head coach).
Miller and Nelson were always an unconventional pair. But I am so happy they went into the Hall together because they both represented change in the game, when value on spacing translated to wins on the court.
Miller fully understood the power of his game, creating space for his teammates to score inside, while providing them the sniper cover to hit 3s whenever the defense slacked off him.
Nelson, in turn, recognized the power of space jam, and started incorporating lineups in the '90s that developed small-ball and created the common spacing game we see in the NBA today.
It's funny when you look back in time.
You think of Nelson, the player who was once cut by an NBA team only later to have a stellar career as Bill Russell's championship teammate. Nelson, the man who coached defense with Bob Lanier and the Milwaukee Bucks. Nellie, the coach who initiated offense with Run-TMC's Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. Nelson, who developed another Big 3 in Big D with Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and MIchael Finley. And the Coach/GM who was always seeking out undiscovered talent overseas. It's only fitting he spends his retirement years running the island of Maui with his decades of NBA paychecks.
So many different memories. From one great man.
Same with Reggie.
The skinny, college kid from UCLA who was better known as Cheryl Miller's brother. The trash-talking, clutch-shooting Pacer-for-life who made a Hall-of-Fame name for himself. The NBA television analyst who has honed his charismatic act for mainstream basketball America.
The night belonged to so many basketball greats Saturday.
But for me, the 2012 Hall of Fame class will always conjure up images of Nellie and Reggie, two unlikely talents, who somehow were able to shine on the greatest stage of all.