Dream Team 25: A Look Back
#4 Christian Laettner (Forward)
In the interest of full-disclosure I can’t lie and say that Christian Laettner was meant to have a large role on the Dream Team. Being the sole collegiate member of the team his job was to learn in practice and keep up if he was put in the game. Laettner was chosen to be the sole representative based on dominance at the college level. He was fresh off of winning back-to-back NCAA Championships and had just been named the National College Basketball Player of the Year over the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning. As the 12th man of the team Laettner saw little action for the Dream Team, as there was a clear difference in his skill level from the rest of his teammates. While his contributions to the Dream Team were minimal, Laettner’s contribution to the game cannot be questioned. He will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest college basketball players of all time and managed to carve out a role for himself in the NBA, playing 13 seasons and snagging a bid in the 1997 All-Star game.
#5 David Robinson (Center)
Serving his country was not a foreign concept to David Robinson. He spent four years attending the United States Naval Academy and even deferred his NBA debut for two years to further honor his naval commitment. His selection to the Dream Team was a no-brainer, a consummate professional, Robinson was also one of the most dominant big men in the NBA, despite only having played for three seasons at the point of his selection. He would certainly make the most of that time, earning the 1990 Rookie of the Year award, the 1992 Defense Player of the Year award and All-Star bids in each of those three seasons. Robinson’s role on the Dream Team was clear, protect the rim defensively and utilize his size advantage offensively. He would prove successful at both, serving as the anchor for the Dream Team. Robinson wrapped his career up in 2003. He would leave the game with a laundry list of accolades, including 10-time All-Star, the 1995 league MVP and a two-time NBA Champion. Robinson would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.
#6 Patrick Ewing (Center)
The leader of the New York Knicks, Patrick Ewing’s game was at its peak at the time of his Dream Team selection. Much like David Robinson, Ewing was elected to the squad because of his professionalism and status as one of the most dominant big men in the NBA. A vital stoke on the wheel, Ewing was tasked with doing the dirty work for the Dream Team. Cleaning up the glass, protecting the rim and setting screens. Ewing thrived in the role, as he led the Dream Team in blocks and rebounds through the Olympics. Ewing called his career quits in 2002, but not before earning seven All-NBA selections, three All-Defensive honors and seven All-NBA selections. For his efforts Ewing was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2008.
#7 Larry Bird (Forward)
Unlike the majority of his teammates, Larry Bird was not in the prime of his career at the time of his Dream Team selection. In fact, the 1992 Olympics were meant to serve as a swan song for Bird, as he had made the decision to retire from the NBA due to chronic back pain. The pain would limit his time on the court throughout the qualifying process and in the 1992 Olympics. Bird’s play for the team did not matter (though he more than held his own), his teammates encouraged him to shoot every chance he got, they as did the fans just wanted catch the final glimpses of his storied career. One of the unquestioned leaders of the team, Bird was selected as a co-captain of the team by head coach Chuck Daly. Bird relished the role as a leader of the squad, often organizing card games for the team in his hotel room till the wee hours of the night. Bird, alongside Magic Johnson, helped save the NBA from despair and defined an era for the league. A 12-time All-Star, three-time league MVP and a three-time NBA Champion Bird would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998.