During a recent press conference, Kobe Bryant, one of the stars of the men's basketball team that will represent the U.S. at the London Olympics, was asked if his squad, which includes LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, could beat the 1992 "Dream Team" that featured, among others, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird.
"It would be tough," Bryant said, "but we'd pull it out."
A few days later, having watched Bryant's team beat Brazil, a fan disagreed. "I was a Bulls fan, so I've gotta go with the original Dream Team. And I suspect that Michael and Sir Charles and others would point out they were probably never down at any point in any of their games," said President Barack Obama.
By the logic of current events, we can assume that Obama opponents would stoutly maintain that the current team WOULD beat the Dream Team.
Boston Globe columnist and ersatz NBA commissioner Bob Ryan sides with the president. "They could certainly beat them in a game, as could many other teams, historically, have beaten them in a game, one game, of course, the old 'anything could happen,'" Ryan said this week. "But I can categorically guarantee you that they could not have beaten them in a seven-game series."
If President Obama's allegiance to the Dream Team is emotional, Ryan's position is based strictly on personnel…especially the most accomplished member of the '92 team.
"So many technical reasons, starting with Michael Jordan himself at the peak of his game, which he was in 1992, and he actually would have been motivated enough not to have played 36 holes of golf on the morning of the game, too," Ryan said.
Players from the '92 team are free to argue that Patrick Ewing and David Robinson would have had Tyson Chandler weeping in frustration by half-time. The current team can contend that LeBron James would prove an impossible challenge for any of the Dream Teamers trying to guard him.
Fans displaying various states of expertise can break down the matchups until last call. That's what this sort of discussion is for, and, of course, there is no danger that the argument will ever be resolved, any more than we will ever know whether Babe Ruth, the accomplished left-handed Boston pitcher, would have struck out Babe Ruth the legendary New York homerun hitter.
But it seems reasonable to give the final word on this basketball question to '92 Dream Teamer Larry Bird. Last week, he was asked whether the current team could beat his guys.
"They probably could," Bird said. "I haven't played basketball in 20 years, and we're all old now."
This segment aired on July 21, 2012.