Dream Team

Patrick Ewing reveals that his Olympic medals were lost or stolen

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Patrick Ewing said his two Olympic gold medals were either lost during one of the many times he moved, or they were stolen when somebody broke into one of his houses.

Ewing, speaking on The Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday, said he then called now-USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo, who arranged for Ewing to receive replacement medals.

Olympic medal replacements are common, such as what happened to perhaps the most famous Olympian, Muhammad Ali.

“This is the first time I really spoke about it,” Ewing said. “Sometimes it sucks to be well-known.”

Ewing said an NCAA Championship ring — presumably from his 1984 title team at Georgetown — was stolen by a house burglar years ago. But he got it back after it turned up on eBay.

Sure enough, there is a legal document detailing a 1999 break-in of Ewing’s home in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Items stolen included that 1984 NCAA Championship ring (but no mention of Olympic medals). The ring was recovered in 2003.

Ewing played on the 1984 and 1992 Olympic teams, both with longtime rival Michael Jordan.

MORE: MJ’s note to Knight at 1984 Olympics | Why Jordan skipped 1996 Olympics

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The Last Dance: Michael Jordan talks Dream Team, Isiah Thomas, Toni Kukoc, Reebok logo at Olympics

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“The Last Dance” documentary on the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls packed four major story angles from the Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics into about 17 minutes on Sunday night.

First, and, if any of them, somewhat revelatory, was Isiah Thomas‘ omission from the 12-man roster (tackled in detail here).

It was the most significant news of the original roster selection and reignited with Dream Team documentaries in 2012 (20th anniversary in conjunction with London Olympics) and a previous “Last Dance” episode on the Bulls-Pistons rivalry.

In previous interviews in 1992 or more recently, both Jordan and Rod Thorn, a USA Basketball player selection committee member in 1992 who called Jordan to offer him a team spot, gave different answers about whether Jordan or Thorn said it first: that Thomas wasn’t going to be chosen for the team. Or whether either said it at all.

The new wrinkle from Sunday’s interview: Maybe Thomas’ name wasn’t uttered at all.

“Before the ’92 Olympics, Rod Thorn calls me and says we would love for you to be on the Dream Team,” Jordan said. “I said oh, who’s all playing? [Thorn] says, uh, what does that mean? I say who’s all playing? He says, well, the guy you’re talking about or, you’re thinking about, is not going to be playing.

“I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent. To me, the best point guard of all-time is Magic Johnson, and right behind him is Isiah Thomas. No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game. Now it was insinuated that I was asking about him, but I never threw his name in there. … You want to attribute it to me, go ahead, be my guest, but it wasn’t me.”

Thomas repeated that he didn’t know why he was left off.

“The camaraderie that happened on that team, it was the best harmony,” Jordan said. “Would Isiah made a different feeling on that team? Yes.”

DREAM TEAM: Why Jordan Nearly Said No | Roster Decisions

The rest of the Dream Team segment, split into two parts by a commercial break, looked at the famous practice game in Monte Carlo. With Clyde Drexler and John Stockon sidelined, the teams were: Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing against Johnson, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, Christian Laettner and David Robinson, according to Jack McCallum‘s 2012 book, “Dream Team.”

Johnson, who said it was the best basketball he was ever a part of, and his team led by as many as nine points. It also involved a level of trash talk befitting the occasion.

Johnson said he, at one point while leading, said, “If you don’t turn into Air Jordan, we’re going to blow you out.” Jordan then willed his team to an eventual victory.

“After that game everyone kind of acknowledged we were in a new era,” NBA PR executive Brian McIntyre said. “Michael Jordan was the alpha alpha, period.”

From there, the episode moved to the “Kukoc Game,” when the U.S. faced Croatia in group play. It was the first time Jordan and Pippen went up against Toni Kukoc, the prized recruit of their hated Bulls general manager, Jerry Krause.

The Kukoc game, and how he earned Jordan’s respect, is covered in detail here.

“Jerry paved the way for a lot of hell for Toni Kukoc,” Pippen said. “Every guy on that Olympic team looked at that kid and felt like he may not even think about coming to the NBA after he played against us. It wasn’t anything personally about Toni, but we were going to do everything we could to make Jerry look bad.”

Lastly, the segment touched on Jordan famously covering up the Reebok logo on the official U.S. Olympic medal podium jacket. Jordan, after insulting then-USOC executive Harvey Schiller while riding in a car, teased that he had a big surprise. He ended up draping an American flag over his right shoulder.

Other players also wore flags or zipped their jackets so the Reebok logo was hidden.

MORE: MJ’s note to Knight at 1984 Olympics | Why Jordan skipped 1996 Olympics

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How the Dream Team roster was chosen for 1992 Olympics

Dream Team
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When FIBA voted in 1989 to allow NBA players into the Olympics, it led to a new system of choosing a U.S. men’s basketball roster.

For the 1992 Barcelona Games, there were no tryouts for the first time.

The NBA season ran much longer than the NCAA — they used to put college players on the Olympic team — and the best pros’ abilities didn’t need to be dissected any more than watching the 82-game regular season and playoffs. Nor did they need to further risk injury at a tryout.

So USA Basketball formed a committee and a two-year process to choose the 12 players for the first Dream Team. It was headed by C.M. Newton, the University of Kentucky Athletic Director and an assistant coach on the 1984 Olympic team.

It included NBA executives, such as Rod Thorn and Jack McCloskey, college coaches including Mike Krzyzewski and P.J. Carlesimo (who would become assistants to Chuck Daly in Barcelona) and an NBA Players Association presence (Charles Grantham).

The committee was tasked with reviewing performances from the 1990-91 and 1991-92 NBA seasons.

The first 10 members of the Dream Team were announced on a selection show on NBC on Sept. 21, 1991. Those 10 players, in order of the reveal:

Magic Johnson
Charles Barkley
Karl Malone
John Stockton
Patrick Ewing
David Robinson
Larry Bird
Chris Mullin
Scottie Pippen
Michael Jordan

DREAM TEAM: Why Isiah Was Left Off | Jordan Nearly Said No | Roster Decisions
The Kukoc Game | MJ’s 1996 Olympic Choice

Of those players, it was reported on the show that Bird and Jordan were initially reluctant to accept roster spots.

“Originally [Bird] said he would not compete in the Olympics because he felt the Games are more for the younger folks,” NBC’s Marv Albert said to Johnson (Bird didn’t appear on the show due to a prior commitment).

“If he hadn’t have been playing,” Johnson said of his longtime rival who had, in recent years, become a friend, “I don’t know if I’d be sitting here today, too, because a team wouldn’t have been a team without Larry Bird on it.”

Bird, turning 35, would be the oldest player on the team by nearly three years (and, to this day, the oldest U.S. Olympic men’s basketball player in history). The 1991-92 NBA season would be his last, in part due to back problems, but he accepted after two dozen phone calls from Johnson, according to the 2012 book, “Dream Team.”

Bird recalled growing up in French Lick, Ind., watching the Olympics on one of this two TV channels and hearing his dad glowing about what it would be like to stand on the medal podium, listening to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Jordan was coy about his participation that summer of 1991. He explained his reluctance here.

Everybody else seemed on board from the get-go. If there was any debate, it was over Mullin, whom Daly liked as a versatile shooting guard/small forward, and Barkley, for his less-than-sterling reputation, according to “Dream Team.” Barkley ended up leading the Olympic team in scoring, while Mullin had the most points for anyone who didn’t start at least half the games.

The last two players to fill out the roster were named nearly eight months later. It would include at least one collegian, an ode to the history of Olympic basketball, and perhaps another NBA player.

“In the next 11, 12 months, It could that another Scottie Pippen will emerge, be it Reggie Miller of Indiana, or it could be an Isiah Thomas,” USA Basketball President Dave Gavitt said on the NBC Selection Show in September 1991.

Obviously Thomas’ omission was much talked-about. He was the only 1992 NBA All-Star starter not among the first 10. He didn’t get the 11th spot, either.

That 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.

Drexler was upset he wasn’t among the first 10, questioning being passed over for Johnson and Bird, who were on the decline, and Mullin, according to “Dream Team.”

Other than Thomas, the top players who didn’t make the Dream Team, based off All-NBA honors or All-Star voting in 1991 and 1992: Dominique Wilkins (All-NBA second team in 1991), Kevin Johnson (All-NBA second team and All-Star Game starter in 1991), Tim Hardaway (All-NBA second team in 1992) and Michael Adams (most 1992 All-Star votes among non-Dream Team players and Thomas).

The last spot had to go to a collegian: Duke’s Christian Laettner. He was the obvious choice after leading the Blue Devils to a repeat national championship and earning Player of the Year honors.

Shaquille O’Neal was upset, but he had one fewer year in college than Laettner and, admittedly, wasn’t as fundamentally sound. He would be drafted No. 1 over Alonzo Mourning and Laettner a month before the Olympics.

MORE: Michael Jordan’s note to Bobby Knight before 1984 Olympic final

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