words // Nick DePaula
Debates can start in funny ways. Perhaps unknowingly at the time, Kobe Bryant was simply responding to a reaching reporter's question after practice and set off a week-long debate. Could this year's Team USA have beaten the original Dream Team?
"It'd be a tough one," Kobe began to say diplomatically. "But I think we'd pull it out." If you put Kobe on last year's Bobcats roster, he'd probably say the exact same thing. That's just how he is. If he's on the team, they have a chance.
While MJ "absolutely laughed" at the thought of the 2012 roster even competing and Scottie Pippen thinks they'd win by 25, perhaps Larry Bird said it best. "They probably could," he joked. "I haven't played in twenty years and we're all old now."
While it's fun to talk about (and we all have to death already), there's also the fact that it'll never actually happen to consider.
What we can debate though is the sneakers that each team wore in their respective Olympic Games. Would you rank the Air More Uptempo over the Air Jordan VII? Did VC's dunk in the Shox BB4 make them more memorable than the first Hyperdunk? Argue away in the comments section below and tell us which of these six USAB teams ranks at the top when it comes to sneakers.
1992 USAB Team - Barcelona Games
The original Dream Team brought the game of basketball to the global stage. It also brought sneakers to a new audience around the world, like Nike's designer of the new Hyperdunk 2012, French-born Olivier Henrichot.
"It was around the same time in France that sneakers actually began getting popular, and we were more a part of the second generation for shoes," recalls Henrichot. "We followed the Nike and Jordan products from that time, and [the Dream Team] was really the first time the we all started to really take notice of basketball and sneakers."
With memorable Nike models like the Air Jordan VII, Air Force 180, Flight Lite II, Flight Huarache and Ballistic Force High all seen in Barcelona, along with some nice diversity and shoes from Champion, Converse, Avia, LA Gear and Ewing Brand, does the '92 team take the crown?
1996 USAB Team - Atlanta Games
As great as the Dream Team may have been in Barcelona, you can also make a pretty solid argument for the sneakers worn in Atlanta by Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Shaq, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley and many other signature greats.
The Air More Uptempo to this day remains one of the most iconic Olympic sneakers of all time, and the Zoom Flight '96, Fila Grant Hill 2, Modify Force, Much Uptempo and Flight '96 were all classics in their own right.
2000 USAB Team - Sydney Games
Carrying on the legacy of the 1992 and 1996 teams is a little harder when you have guys like Vin Baker on the roster, but the 2000 USAB group still won Gold in Sydney despite some key invite decline and the emerging growth of global hoops competition.
When it was all said and done, all we rememberd was the Shox BB4 when Vince Carter leapfrogged an actual human. Other highlights included KG's sweet "OBF" Flightposite IIs and Gold Medal game FP2s, along with a great colorway of the Zoom GP 2 and of course, the Olympic Air Jordan VI.
The sneakers might not've seemed to be near the greatness of the Atlanta and Barcelona teams at the time, but now over a decade later, the 2000 team's models have aged quite well.
2004 USAB Team - Athens Games
After Team USA's disastrous showing in Indianapolis for the 2002 World Championships, things didn't get much better in Athens. The group struggled to recover after Kobe, Shaq, Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen and other stars all turned down invitations, and while LeBron, Melo and DWade were on the roster, the trio just coming off of their rookie years weren't exactly favorites of Coach Larry Brown.
On the sneaker front, there wasn't a ground-breaking technology on display or any standout moment quite like VC's jam that left a mark on the Sydney Games. Shox were still commonplace from Nike Basketball, as Lamar Odom and Richard Jefferson both rocked the Shox Elite. Amar'e Stoudemire rocked the Air Jordan XIX in his only Olympics, while LeBron wore the Zoom LeBron II and Melo stuck with his first signature shoe, the Melo 1.5
In their lone year of outfitting the USAB uniforms, Reebok did have the luxury of having Allen Iverson on the team, and they used the Olympic platform to launch the Question 2. Stephon Marbury repped AND1 in their only USAB appearance with the Quest, and Tim Duncan did his best as a newcomer in adidas.
2008 USAB Team - Beijing Games
Seven guys wore Hyperdunks for the Summer Games in China, and even when guys like Dwight Howard tried to throw in a splash of diversity, Coach K was there for the block.
Unlike the 2004 squad that shamefully returned with just a Bronze Medal, the 2008 "Redeem Team" actually made it to the Gold Medal Game, and had some special edition sneakers just for the moment.
We got our first glimpse of the Zoom LeBron VI, Melo M5 and yes, even more airtime for the Hyperdunk. Where would you rank the '08 squadron among the federation's best teams?
2012 USAB Team - London Games
It's hard to judge the 2012 group this soon knowing that there will certainly be a few surprises in the coming weeks, but already the team's practices in Las Vegas have brought us the new Lunar Hyperdunk+, as well as USAB-specific colorways of the Zoom Kobe VII, Hyperfuse 2012, Jordan CP3.V, Melo M8 and Zoom KD IV.
Kobe swears the 2012 team could beat the original Dream Team in a head-to-head game. How does this team match up in terms of sneakers?