Which Dream Team is better, 2012 or 1992?

Kobe Bryant created a Ruping-like controversial storm last week when he broadcasted this boast: “It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”

Calling today’s USA Olympic basketball team “a bunch of racehorses who are incredibly athletic,” he insulted the 1992 squad, saying they “consisted mainly of players at the tail end of their careers.”

Ouch. Charles Barkley, the offensive rebounder, took offense, saying, “How old is Kobe Bryant? He’s 34? And he’s calling us old? … Other than Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant, I don’t think anybody else on that team makes our team.”

Now that reply’s a slam dunk. Michael Jordan added: “For him to make that comparison, it’s one of those things where it creates conversation. I guess we’ll never know. I’d like to think that we had 11 Hall of Famers on that team, and whenever they get 11 Hall of Famers, you call and ask me who had the better Dream Team. Remember now, they learned from us. We didn’t learn from them.”

MJ is right. Team 1992 was composed of Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Christian Laettner, David Robinson, Magic Johnson, Barkley and Jordan. (All are Hall of Famers except for Laettner.)

In the Barcelona Olympics, they beat Angola by 68 points, Croatia by 33, Germany by 43, Brazil by 44, Spain by 42, Puerto Rico by 38, Lithuania by 51 and, in the final, beat Croatia, 117-85. Their average margin: 44 points.

So, 1992 or 2012? Who’s better? The funny thing is, the London Games haven’t even started! Team USA hasn’t even won a single game.    Still, if this hypothetical encounter were to happen, what would be the result?

One dominant theme arises: Size matters. “There’s no question about it — we’d kill them,” said Ewing. “We were much bigger. Our bigs were much bigger and if not the same, [even] more athletic. We had Magic, Michael. I think we would dominate them.”

While the 2012 US team only has one natural center with Tyson Chandler at 7’1”, the ’92 team had plenty of giants: Robinson (7’1”), Ewing (7’0”), Laettner (6’11”), Malone (6’9”). And should we forget, Bird and Magic stood at 6-foot-9.

“Because we don’t have a lot of big guys, Carmelo, LeBron and Kevin Durant will all be at the 4 [power forward] and 5 [center],” said coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Andre Iguodala will be at one of the bigs, too. We have to compensate our loss of big guys with athleticism.” The coach added: “The quickness of this team, this is the quickest team I’ve ever coached, including U.S. teams. We have to build on that. Instead of talking about the fact that we don’t have many centers — it would different if we had Dwight and Chris Bosh. We’d play a little bit differently. We don’t, so we have to rely on our strength, which is versatility, quickness, speed.”

In the end, all this trash talk serves one purpose: to draw attention. And, for that alone, shifting the focus from Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt to the American basketball team, why, that’s good for Kobe and LeBron.

And you know how good Americans are at trash-talking. Very often, these words scare the enemy. That’s an added purpose. Still, some players don’t like this verbal war, LeBron included. “It’s nothing fun about it,” said LeBron. “That’s a great team, we understand that. They set the standard for a lot of us. We’re trying to make our own mark so that teams will come after us.”

Carmelo Anthony agrees. “Why can’t it all just be love? It’s always got to be us against them or them against us,” said Anthony. “We all USA basketball players, man. I’m not here to sit and say we’re better than them, or better than this or that. We’re trying to make a statement with the game we have. What they did back in ’92 will never be duplicated. We’re just trying to start our own thing and hopefully continue our legacy.”

As for Deron Williams, he wants this issue settled, joking, “I think right now, if they come out here, we’ll beat them,” Williams said. “Right now.”

Yep, when MJ is 49 years old!

Sure shot! The A-Team to strike gold

Twenty years ago in Barcelona, a group of giants named Magic, Larry, Michael & Co. won the Olympic gold medal in basketball. Their average winning margin? An unfathomable 43.8 PPG. That was the 1992 Dream Team, acknowledged as the greatest ever cast of athletes assembled—of any sport.

Now, it’s 2012. It’s London. Will Kobe, Kevin, LeBron & Co. become today’s “Avengers” and win gold? Absolutely. As sure as basketball was invented by an American, Team USA will beat Spain, Argentina, France and Russia.

Look at the roster: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Andre Guodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. These are the 12 best ballplayers of our planet’s seven billion inhabitants.

Durant? Bryant? James? Those three alone can beat the five-man squad of Tunisia.

“When I think about ’08, we were really good then. But like me, LeBron and D-Will, all of us talk about, you’ve got to think about how much better all of us are now than we were in ’08. All of us as players, we shoot the ball better. Guys are more athletic, guys are more confident. One through 12, no question we’re deeper than we were in ’08.” Who said those words? Chris Paul, the 6-footer point guard.

In Beijing, Team USA won by an average of 32.2 points in the elimination round. In the quarterfinals, they defeated Australia, 116-85. In the semis, Argentina got trounced, 101-81. And, in the finals, it was closer than expected: 118-107 versus Spain.

While 2008 was The Redeem Team, the 2004 squad was The Nightmare Team as the US (with Dwayne Wade, LeBron and Carmelo Anthony) lost to eventual gold medalists Argentina in the semis.

This 2012, the country of Barack Obama wants to ensure that they’re all-smiles during the Awarding.

One man who’ll savor his first time Olympian status is Kevin Durant who, at age 19 four years ago, was not selected. “It was almost end of the world,” said Durant, “especially seeing those guys win it—celebrating the gold in Beijing. I couldn’t stand it.”

LeBron? The 27-year-old has the opportunity to match a record that only one other human being has accomplished: Michael Jordan. In 1992, MJ earned the MVP and Finals MVP awards, the NBA ring plus an Olympic gold medal.

Kobe? He’s the “senior citizen” (oldest player) at age 33.

There are a few notable no-shows: Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and Miami teammates Wade and Chris Bosh. They’re injured.

Studying the line-up, it’s obvious what Team USA lacks: height. Of the 12, only three players stand 6’10” and taller. Spain has the Big Three: Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka—two brothers who are All-Stars plus a player who led the NBA in blocked shots (3.7/game) last season. Are the Americans concerned? Ever the confident people, they say, No way! As their one true center, 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler puts it, “we’ve got some hybrids.”

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo answers this lack-of-big-men concern: “People keep throwing Spain in our face, ’What about the Gasols?’ And I say, ’Well, what about the Gasols? Our guys play against them every day. And matchups always go two ways. They have to be able to guard our quickness, our speed, our versatility, and so I’m not really concerned about that.” He added: “There are a lot of 6-9 and 6-10 guys who are much better than 7-footers.”

“The United States will rely on the same formula it did in winning the gold medal in Beijing when it overwhelmed every opponent with its full-court pressure and transition game—until the final, when it took scintillating shooting to hold off Spain,” wrote Fox Sports’ Billy Witz.

Athleticism. Speed. Offense. They’ll spread the court and drive to the basket to create opportunities. Added Matthew Kitchen of NBC Olympics: “You realize how stacked Team USA really is: six rings, six scoring titles, four MVPs, the reigning Sixth Man and Defensive Player of the Year.”

Dream Team Part 2? Yes. The A-Team.

64 days to go before the London Olympics

Back in July of 2005, I was fortunate to have been in Singapore when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) convened in the Lion City to decide on the host for the 2012 Olympic Games. As we now know, Moscow, Paris, Madrid and New York lost to one city who’ll host the Games from July 27 to August 12.

London. Yes. Is there a place more cosmopolitan, diverse and sports-crazy? Exactly 64 days from today, London will become the only city in history to host the Olympics thrice (they also did in 1908 and 1948).

Wanting to get a first-hand look at the Olympics, I asked a long-time resident for his thoughts…

Jack Biantan was SunStar Cebu’s former Sports Editor. A giant both in size and in his love for sports, Jack has resided in London for 11 years now.

“Everyone here is excited,” said Jack, in our e-mail exchange last week. “But not the entire London has benefitted from this Olympics. Only the West part of London where the Olympic Village and the infrastructures are.

“Our only concern in North London specially we Tottenham Hotspurs fans is the Olympic stadium. Shall we get the stadium after the Olympics or shall we remain in the congested White Heart Lane stadium.

“As you can see John, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspurs are contesting in courts right now on who will be right full tenants in the Olympic stadium. The London Olympics organising committee has given the rights to West Ham because of the Hammers proposal to keep the track oval after the games.

“Tottenham however want to get rid of the oval and convert the entire stadium into a football specific stadium just like what Manchester City FC did to the Manchester stadium after the Commonwealth games fews years back. The Hammers have all the advantage also because West Ham is based only very near to the stadium while the Spurs are based some kilometres away.

“But in my opinion the Spurs are just using the Olympic stadium as leverage to their negotiations with the Haringey council (Tottenham is located in the Haringey borough) for the extension of the White Heart Lane stadium. The Spurs management has brought all the properties around their stadium and are waiting for their permit to construct to be approved. The Spurs stadium has only 36,000 capacity and I have been waiting for the past 11 years to get a season ticket. They are planning to extend the stadium to 60,000 once the council approves the permit.

“The London Olympic committee is also facing another problem in court as Leyton Orient FC the club nearest to the Olympic stadium has also sued and claimed their own right to the tenancy to the stadium. The games have not even started yet but the battle in courts have already been busy.”

Jack planned to watch the games in person but was appalled by the exorbitant ticket prices. “The tickets are astronomical for ordinary salaried people like us OFWs from the Philippines,” said Jack. “I have a daughter in college in Cebu and a six-year-old son who is in an Opus Dei School in CDO. I also have to pay high rental to the flat I rent here.”

Based on my internet research, a ticket to, say, an Olympic basketball game can cost anywhere from 40 Pounds (about P2,700) to, in the Final game, a whopping 425 Pounds (P29,000). Tennis in Wimbledon? The final can be as expensive as 225 pounds (P15,000).

Worse, the tickets are not only expensive—they’re also nearly impossible to get. “Most are sold out and been snatched by the black market peddlers,” said Jack, driving the prices further upwards.

“I planned to buy tickets for boxing where there is only one Filipino athlete competing. But since he is alone, and the odds for him to win a medal is very slim, I might as well stay at home and watch TV,” said Jack.

Joking, he adds: “Unless we are lucky to win the ticket lottery the Olympic committee has organised, then we would be more excited.”

This has not stopped Jack, though, from visiting a few sites. He’s toured the outside area of the Olympic Stadium and has explored the Westfield Mall in Stratford City.

The London Games will be the 30th Olympics. And since Roman Numerals are often used, you know what these games will be? The triple-X Games. Or the Games of the XXX Olympiad.

When the battle starts on July 27, an estimated 10,000-plus athletes representing 204 countries will compete. There are only 26 sports but a total of 302 events.

Like us here in Cebu, Mr. Biantan will be watching the flat screen.

“BBC is covering the games for free so we would just contend ourselves in watching the games on TV,” he said. “Our only problem is that the BBC coverage will be concentrated only to British athletes. But the Filipino community is excited to watch Olympic basketball games live this time because there is a British team competing in it. Unlike the previous games where only the finals were aired.”

I asked Jack, who’s resided in the United Kingdom capital since 2001, if he plans to reside there for good and he says no.

“Once our mortgage in CDO is finished in five years time and my daughter finishes her college education I will be back in the Philippines to take care of my young son. That, if I stay healthy during those times. I am getting old now John and I want to enjoy my life a little bit before I go to another world. Life here is hard and there is too much stress. I had a great time in Cebu when I was there. I lost my hair and gotten sick of diabetes in 11 years of stay here.”

Finally, I asked the football aficionado if he meets with other Cebuanos. His reply: All the time! “Most of my colleagues in the hospital where I work are Filipinos, so I still have not perfected my British accent because we often speak Ilonggo, Cebuano or Tagalog.”

Good to hear that London Jack is still Bisaya.

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Dolly Tan writes about Canada

Erlinda Dolly Tan lived in Cebu from 2003 to 2008, worked at the GSIS, but is now residing in British Columbia. British Columbia? If the name sounds familiar that’s because the Winter Olympics, which ran from Feb. 12 to 28, was held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dolly emailed me three weeks back with her observations which she entitled, “Watching the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics… And How It Reminds Me Of My Country.”

While admitting that the “Snow” Games are not popular in RP, she says we can learn from Canada. “When Vancouver was awarded to host the Olympics in 2003,” wrote Dolly, “it immediately created a 5-year program called ‘Own The Podium’ (OTP). The purpose was to develop and train athletes with the ultimate goal to top the medal tally.

“The program included trainings for coaches, leaders and athletes. It took care of the athletes’ nutrition, psychological condition and well being. They were sent to international games to prepare them for top level competition conditions.”

The OTP budget, said Dolly, was a huge $110 million and this did not escape criticisms. (Half came from taxpayers, half from sponsors.) Still, despite the negative response, Canada pushed ahead. The program worked.

“Canada made history by winning 14 gold medals, the most ever for a host nation. In the over-all tally, USA was first, Germany second and Canada third. But this doesn’t diminish the OTP program’s success with every Canadian believing that they still own the best part of the podium, the gold.

“As Canada closed the Olympics curtain, I can’t help but think about my beloved country 10,000 kilometers away. Too unrealistic to create a similar program? Yes but I was hoping our government would give more priority and would increase the budget for sports.

“We produced Paeng Nepomuceno, Bata Reyes and Eric Buhain; there is no reason why we cannot produce more world class athletes. And how about Manny Pacquiao as proof? But our athletes cannot do it by themselves, the government has a major role to play.”

Why sports? “Sports is an alternative way of life,” said Dolly. “It develops strict discipline for our children, it stimulates dreams, it stirs up patriotism. For every gold medal won, hundreds of dreams are born. For every gold medal won, hundreds of children are inspired. They get up, dribble, shoot. Sports is one way of keeping them away from drugs.

“I witnessed in Canada how sports became nation-building. Vancouver was a world stage for 17 days and more than 3.5 billion people viewed some part of the games both on TV and the internet.. this includes 185 million Americans, more than half of the US population. What they saw was Vancouver with polite people who never ran out of greetings… Thank You, You’re Welcome, and Have A Nice Day. They saw the essence of a 21st century Canada, a post 9/11 world of a peaceful multi-cultural people that includes 400,000 Filipinos. Tourism is expected to boom in Vancouver in the coming years.

“I witnessed how hockey, a game that originated in Canada, produced a People Power on the final day of Olympics when Canada and US battled for the gold in a nail-biting 3-period thriller. Right after the emotional win of Canada, a celebration of national pride erupted.

“There was people power in big cities. The downtowns of Vancouver and Toronto were flooded with people, all proud to be Canadians. Flags were raised coast to coast. This nation who doesn’t use the car horn… honked for victory! People sang the national anthem inside the train, bus, malls…

“Unbelievable. But as they say here, children skate before they can walk, they learn hockey prior to arithmetic. But it’s not about hockey, per se. It’s how they take care of their athletes—and end up winning 14 golds.

“Our Filipino athletes are there, waiting to be discovered and trained. They could be playing basketball or doing boxing. But without government support, they will remain pots of gold sitting in our backyards.”

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Winter Olympics

One of my favorite websites is The Big Picture by Boston.com. They publish photos that are, as its name explains, BIG. Check out a few Winter Olympics photos below and visit their website here.

For more, visit The Big Picture by Boston.com

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No show of the snow? SkyCable is lousy

Last Wednesday, I stayed overnight in Iloilo City. I switched on the TV set while inside the hotel room. I shivered. Not because the air-conditioning was near-freezing, but because of what my eyes witnessed.

Snow. Lots of snow. It’s the Olympics and the star is Vancouver, Canada, where the 21st Winter Games are being held from February 12 to 28.

The cable TV company in Iloilo showed two channels fully devoted to the Winter Olympics. One was a European channel and the other was Solar Sports. It was nearly a 24-hour, all-snow, all-Vancouver coverage. And it was sensational. I watched Curling. Virtually unheard-of in this part of the tropical world, it’s a game of utmost precision. I saw Cross-Country Skiing. The skiers were terrific athletes: they’d climb up a steep hill, stride down, sprint on a flat mound, both arms swinging, all hearts pounding in 111 percent effort. Ice hockey I saw. Same with Speed-Skating and Alpine Skiing. These were all shown in both live and replay feeds on both two channels.

Not in Cebu. But in Iloilo. Now why, I ask, isn’t the Olympic Games, held only once every 48 months, being shown in our Queen City? I don’t know. But I don’t like it. And I presume, so do the thousands of other SkyCable subscribers who would have loved to see snow in our sunny island.

Bode Miller? Who captured gold yesterday in the Super Combined? No show. Lindsey Vonn, an unbelievable beauty of a blonde American who won gold in the Women’s Downhill? Sorry, folks, but you can only check out her moves and photos via the internet (visit the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and you’ll see her in seductive, two-piece swimwear.)

It’s a pity SkyCable severed its ties with Solar Sports. The biggest losers in all this are you and me.

SUPER BOWL. Last week, I got the chance to speak by phone to Raymond Kokseng. He was infuriated and annoyed. And Mr. Kokseng, one of Cebu’s top businessmen (Banilad Town Centre, Harbour City/Dimsum Break, Golden Cowrie, Grand Convention Center, to name a few), is also one of this island’s most amiable and courteous of gentlemen. Thus, to hear him somewhat aggravated was a surprise.

The reason: Sports. Once again, the no-show by SkyCable. The event: Super Bowl XLIV.

Played between the Indianapolis Colts versus the New Orleans Saints, it turned out to be a huge upset win for the Saints and Drew Brees (who outperformed the so-called “greatest quarterback ever,” Peyton Manning). That February 7 event also turned out to be the most-watched TV program in U.S. history, beating M*A*S*H. In all, 106.5 viewers saw the Super Bowl.

You and me here in Cebu? Ha-ha. Pity us. We saw nothing. And that’s what got Raymond Kokseng displeased. Having resided in San Francisco (“I was a big, big fan of the 49ers”), he had grown to love, and to follow, American football; in particular, that once-a-year spectacle. Sadly, it was no Bowl, no snow, no show.

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Will Obama-MJ-Oprah pitch for Chicago 2016?

They are three of the most famous individuals among the estimated 6,785,975,546 people who inhabit this planet today. Barack Hussein Obama. Oprah Gail Winfrey. Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

One is television’s biggest superstar. The other is a global sports icon who is arguably, despite his having retired from the NBA six years ago, the most celebrated athlete in the world. The third member of the trio? Simply put, he happens to be the most recognizable and powerful person on earth.

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