Scottie Pippen said that a 12th NBA player should have been on the Dream Team, preferably Dominique Wilkins, instead of a collegian that turned out to be Christian Laettner.
“I agreed with each pick except Laettner,” Pippen wrote in his new book, “Unguarded,” of the 12-man roster for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. “I didn’t think he would fit in, and I was right. The committee should have chosen another NBA player, and plenty were worthy. My preference was Dominique Wilkins.”
A USA Basketball-formed committee chose the Dream Team in a two-year process. It left one spot for a college player as an ode to the previous era of “amateur” Olympic basketball.
Laettner played 7.6 minutes per game in Barcelona, the fewest on the team aside from John Stockton. Stockton fractured his right leg a month before the Games in a collision with Michael Jordan and missed four of the Dream Team’s first eight games, matching the number of games he missed in the first 13 seasons of his NBA career.
The last NBA spot on the Dream Team went to Clyde Drexler, who finished second in NBA MVP voting in the 1991-92 season. When Drexler was named to the team, he was leading the Portland Trail Blazers through the Western Conference Playoffs and to an NBA Finals matchup with Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
Wilkins, then 31, was coming off an All-NBA second team season with the Atlanta Hawks when the first 10 players were named to the Dream Team.
The four NBA forwards named to the team ahead of him were All-NBA first-teamers Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, fellow All-NBA second-teamer Chris Mullin and Pippen, the only NBA player on the Dream Team who had yet to make an All-NBA team. Pippen, the youngest NBA player on the team, just won his first NBA title with the Jordan Bulls and, the next season, made the first of seven consecutive All-NBA teams.
Wilkins is often mentioned among the best players not to make the Dream Team. He was named to the 1994 World Championship team, along with fellow stars who just missed Barcelona like Tim Hardaway, Kevin Johnson, Reggie Miller and Isiah Thomas. (Hardaway and Thomas, Hardaway’s replacement, didn’t play at worlds due to injuries.)
Pippen also confirmed in his book the long-held notion that a number of players, including himself and Jordan, would not have participated in the Barcelona Olympics had Thomas been named to the Dream Team.
Longtime Sports Illustrated NBA writer Jack McCallum reported in his 2012 book, “Dream Team,” that Jordan told selection committee member (and the former Chicago Bulls GM who drafted him) Rod Thorn, “I don’t want to play if Isiah Thomas is on the team.”
Jordan and Thorn denied that Jordan made that kind of ultimatum.
Magic Johnson, considered one of Thomas’ close friends in the 1980s, has said that nobody on the team wanted to play with Thomas. There are a number of reasons why any of the players would have been against suiting up with the Detroit Pistons point guard.
“Looking at his numbers, it would be difficult to argue Isiah wasn’t deserving,” Pippen wrote of Thomas. “Putting a basketball team together is about more than numbers. It is about chemistry, and with Isiah on the Dream Team, the chemistry would have been horrible.”
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