LONDON - Two decades after Michael Jordan led the first US NBA Dream Team to Barcelona Olympic gold by amazing margins, Kobe Bryant says this year's London Olympic US NBA squad could beat that legendary lineup.
"It would be a tough one but I think we would pull it out," Bryant said. "People who think we can't beat that team for one game, they are crazy. To sit there and say we can't, it's ludicrous. We can beat them one time."
The Dream Team, which featured Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson among 11 players now in the Basketball Hall of Fame, begs to differ.
"There's no question about it -- we would kill them," said 1992 US Olympic center Patrick Ewing.
"We were much bigger. Our bigs were much bigger and more athletic. We had Magic, Michael. I think we would dominate them."
The Americans completed a 5-0 pre-Olympic exhibition run with a 100-78 rout of Spain at Barcelona. Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points and LeBron James, fresh off leading Miami to an NBA crown last month, added 25 in what could be a preview of next month's Olympic final.
But much of the run-up to the game and the Olympics has evoked the memories of the epic 1992 US Dream Team led by Jordan, Johnson, Ewing and Charles Barkley and how the first NBA Olympic team might fare against today's icons.
"Every Olympic basketball team from now on will be compared to the Dream Team," said Kevin Durant, the reigning NBA scoring champion. "We really can't duplicate exactly what that team did. But we can put our own spin on it.
"We're glad they laid that blueprint out. But it's our time now."
James added: "That was a great team. They set the standard for a lot of us. We're trying to make our own mark so that teams will come after us."
Anthony sees the 1992 squad as unmatchable.
"I'm not here to sit and say we're better than them," Anthony said. "We're trying to make a statement with the game we have. What they did back in '92 will never be duplicated. We're just trying to start our own thing."
Barkley noted the superior inside size edge the original Dream Team would have, largely due to injuries taking out such talent as Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh from this year's side as well as playmakers Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose.
"Kobe and LeBron, those are the only two guys who would make our team," says Barkley.
"We win by 15 or 20 points. We're too big for them. They've got a very small team and we could wear Kobe and LeBron down by putting a bunch of bodies on them. Patrick Ewing and David Robinson would just punish them inside."
Jordan said he laughed when he heard Bryant's comments, including that the original Dream Team had "players who were mainly at the end of their careers".
"I imagine he's saying it to legitimize his own Dream Team," Jordan said. "To me it's not even a question which team is better. They learned from us. We didn't learn from them."
In the end, each team will make its own history.
"The Dream Team will always be the team people recognize as the team of all time," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "But this team is a strong team and this team will be successful too."
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