Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever, by Jack McCallum, narrated by Dick Hill
Forever is a long time, but this is a book that lives up to its claim that the Dream Team changed basketball forever, managing to strike a difficult balance between a dishy and gossipy book on the first team of basketball superstars to have donned the red, white, and blue, and represented the United States as professional basketball players at the Olympics and a work of sober sports history. Part of the reason why this book works so well is because the author is a very skilled one, skilled not only at writing, but skilled also at self-effacing humor and working with entitled celebrities and making them feel at ease, and even in respecting their privacy while telling an honest story and being honest about their faults, including alcoholism, gambling, and promiscuity, all of which appear here. These skills are at work in a book that ought to be treasured by those who are fond of basketball in the larger context of concerns over amateurism, commercialism, and the larger body of culture.
The contents of this book are straightforward, but more expansive than is apparent at the start. The book begins with biographical sketches about the people included on the Dream Team as players and coaches, and the most prominent player who was not included, Isaiah Thomas. Along with the narrative about the players: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, and Christian Laettner, as well as the coaches: especially Chuck Daly and Mike Krzyzewski, the book also contains a great deal of content about the writer and his experiences, as well as the story of how it was that NBA players ended up being eligible for the Olympics in the first place, which involves some intriguing discussion about a certain “inspector of meat” and political wrangling within the IOC and the basketball community . The result is a fascinating story of great depth and complexity, aside from a narrative history of the path that the Dream Team took from conception and roster choice through practices and scrimmages and the Tournament of the Americas and the Olympics as a whole, as well as a look back from 2011, when the book was written, on the careers of many of the people afterward.
As a book that features enough juicy tidbits that are little known, including a detailed breakdown of the Greatest Game That Nobody Saw, a 5 on 5 game between 10 of the 12 Dream Team players during training camp in Monte Carlo, as well as discussions about the private life of the Dream Team stars, this book will likely appeal to a broad sports reading audience. The book also deserves credit for its wealth of detail, its clever nicknames for players, and for the way that the author explored not only the Dream Team itself, but also its influence on basketball by encouraging basketball players around the world and also setting an impossible bar for future USA Basketball Teams to meet, despite the best efforts of many of them. The author fills this book with personal observations, keen interviews, and some excellent breakdown of game footage as well. The result is a book that any sports writer would be proud of writing and even more proud of being a part of, a book that combines honesty with enthusiasm, all done with great skill, and pointing out the fact that playing sports at the highest level is about diplomacy as much as it is about sheer talent.
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