Travis 2nd Best
Boomers: May The 4th Be With You
Why the 1996 Boomers' 4th place finish is every bit as good as a medal
-5 and 3 record
-In group play, only lost to Vlade Divac and Yugoslavia (eventual Silver medallists)
-Lost in the semi-finals to USA (eventual Gold medallists).
*It's a super easy arugment to say that '96 Dream Team is the best edition, even better than '92. Besides Jordan, they were legitimately the best 12 that USA could send. And on home soil.*
**2021 Team USA doesn't even come close.**
-Lost in the Bronze medal game to Arvydas Sabonis' Lithuania. ARVYDAS FRIGGEN SABONIS.
-All players from the NBL. Grown playing in various state leagues and the local Australian competition, with almost the entire squad emanating from the AIS at some point.
-No impactful NBA role players or borderline stars, no "my dad lived in Australia for 7 years when I was 24 months old, hence I'm Aussie" defensive superstars. No Lucien James Longley.
-Tonny Jensen's haircut
*If you take career trajectory, using statistics and All-NBA/All-Defensive selections as the key criteria, for 2 seasons prior to the Olympics:*
Matchup by position - 1992 vs 1996 Team USA
25 year old P. Hardaway was in his prime (consecutive 1st team selections); Stockton actually got better with age; Payton was in his prime and was DPOY. '92 Stockton had just surpassed Thomas as the league's elite small PG, Magic didn't play that season due to HIV. Advantage '96.
Prime Jordan and Drexler beats Miller and Richmond. Advantage '92.
Bird had not made any All-NBA team for the last 3 seasons and due to injury was only playing 45-60 games a season; '92 Pippen just got his first All-NBA (2nd) nod; Mullin was in his prime. '96 gave you prime Pippen and emerging Grant Hill. Advantage '96.
'92 Malone and Barkley + Laettner vs '96 Malone and Barkley. Evident in still being All NBA (1st), Malone got better with age, Barkley regressed ever so slightly. Advantage slightly '96 or a draw.
'92 Robinson + Ewing vs '96 Robinson, Olajuwon, O'Neal. Robinson, if even possible, improved, Olajuwon and O'Neal were the 2nd and 3rd All NBA choices - but only due to the requirement of selecting All-NBA strictly by position. Advantage '96.
**1996 TEAM USA VS 2021 TEAM USA**
-12 of the 12 on the '96 squad had been named All-NBA, and together, up to the season pre Olympics they combined for 29x 1st Team appearances, 24x 2nd Team appearances and 14x 3rd Team appearances.
-4 of the 12 on the '21 squad had been named All-NBA, and together, up to the season pre Olympics they combined for 7x 1st Team appearances, 8x 2nd Team appearances and 3x 3rd Team apperances.
I feel like the historic bronze medal, whilst a fantastic achievement and a very "monkey off the nation's back" moment - completely undersells what '96 achieved. I get all the "this medal is for past teams" sentiment, I really do.
But more needs to be done to commemorate the '96 campaign. The other 4th place finishes are nice also, but if you truly watch basketball - you would know how truly "against the odds" this campaign was; how much stronger the US and other European countries were; how our program was still very much bush league-ish to even hang with these powerhouses;
Shoot, you were hanging on your seat with Duop Reath needing to play big minutes behind Nick Kay? Try watching knowing our hope of slowing down Divac and Sabonis rests on the creaky 34 year old knees of Ray Borner and John Dorge in the era wayyy before load manageement and advanced sports science.