Dream Team of 1992 received death threats in Barcelona

Dream Team of 1992 received death threats in Barcelona

The Dream Team of 1992 received death threats in Barcelona. Charles Barkley walked around the city alone despite the threats, and when asked where his bodyguards were, he held up his fists and answered, “This is my security.”

The team trained for the Olympics in Monaco for six days, practicing two hours a day and playing exhibition games against other national teams, and also enjoying the nude beaches, Monte Carlo’s casinos, and dining with royalty. There was no curfew; as coach Daly stated, “I’m not putting in a curfew because I’d have to adhere to it, and Jimmy’z [a noted Monte Carlo nightclub] doesn’t open until midnight.” In one training session the group divided into two teams, Blue (led by Johnson, with Barkley, Robinson, Mullin, and Laettner) and White (led by Jordan, with Malone, Ewing, Pippen, and Bird), Clyde Drexler and John Stockton did not play as both were nursing injuries. Daly told the teams to play “All you got now. All you got.” White won, 40 to 36, in what Jordan recalled as “the best game I was ever in” and Sports Illustrated later called “the Greatest Game Nobody Ever Saw”.

“ This is my security. ”

—Barkley, holding up his fists

At the Olympics, the Dream Team stayed at a luxury Barcelona hotel instead of the Olympic Village due to security concerns. Fans enthusiastically greeted the Americans; they gathered outside the hotel, hoping to see their favorite players. “It was like Elvis and the Beatles put together,” Daly said. Opposing basketball players and athletes from other sports often asked to have photographs taken with the players. Barkley recalled, however, that the team received death threats:

In our hotel, you had to have a picture ID to get in there, and we went to the pool on the roof of the hotel, there was like 10 guys standing around with Uzis. So it was kind of funny, it was like: Girl in bikini; dude with an Uzi; girl in bikini; guy with Uzi. People thought we didn’t want to stay in the Olympic Village because we wanted to be big shots, but it was because we were getting death threats. They had told us this would be considered great by one of these terrorist groups if they could take out the Dream Team.

Barkley walked around the city alone despite the threats. When asked where his bodyguards were, he held up his fists and answered, “This is my security.” McCallum later described Barkley as “the number one U.S. Olympic ambassador” for his visits to La Rambla, where he met with adoring crowds.

Jordan was the only player who studied the opposition, carefully watching game tapes. He and the other Americans enjoyed the opportunity to get to know each other in a casual setting, often playing cards all night and, for Jordan, playing several rounds of golf daily with little rest. Opposing teams were nonetheless overwhelmed by the talent of the American roster, losing by an average of 43.8 points per game. The Dream Team was the first to score more than 100 points in every game. Its 117.3 average was more than 15 points more than the 1960 US team. Johnson later recalled, “I look to my right, there’s Michael Jordan … I look to my left, there’s Charles Barkley or Larry Bird … I didn’t know who to throw the ball to!” Herlander Coimbra of Angola, the Dream Team’s first opponent, recalled that “those guys were on another level—a galaxy far, far away”.[8] Albert believed that the Americans used the Angola match, which they won 116-48—including a flagrant foul elbowing by Barkley after scoring a basket—to warn the other teams in the tournament. Daly started Jordan in every game, and Johnson started in five of the six games he played, missing two games because of knee problems. Pippen, Mullin, Robinson, Ewing, Malone and Barkley rotated in the other starting spots. Barkley was the Dream Team’s leading scorer during the Olympics, averaging 18.0 points per game, although the player selection committee had been unsure of his inclusion, worried that he would not represent the United States well.

The closest of the eight matches was Team USA’s 117–85 victory in the gold medal game, a rematch against Croatia, participating as an independent nation in the Olympics for the first time since its separation from the former Yugoslavia; the Dream Team was briefly behind 25-23 in the first half, but by the end of the game Stockton agreed to a Croatian player’s plea to not shoot. Pippen and Jordan aggressively sought the opportunity to guard Toni Kukoč of Croatia. He had just signed a contract with the Bulls for more money than Pippen, who believed that the team’s negotiation with the Croatian had delayed his own contract. Tiring of hearing about Kukoč’s talent, Pippen and Jordan agreed to, as Jordan later said, “not … let this guy do anything against us.” He told Johnson before the first Croatia game “I’m serious tonight”, causing Johnson to reply “Uh oh.” McCallum described the two Bulls as “rabid dogs” against the inexperienced Croatian. Croatia had lost to the Dream Team 103–70 in their first game. The only team besides Croatia to hold the margin under 40 points was Puerto Rico, which lost 115-77 in the quarterfinals.