Sunday, August 15, 2004

Where have you gone, Michael Jordan?

Sitting here watching the USA men's basketball team losing by 14 points in the 4th quarter to Puerto Rico. This is just sad. Well, at least they are no longer calling them the Dream Team. That's good, because they are not. Dwayne Wade? Wasn't he on A Different World? Richard Jefferson? Gimme a break. He's bricking 20-foot jumpers like he's getting a cash bonus for each one he misses, and I think he has played the entire 40 minutes. Shawn Marion? You telling me there's not 12 better players in the NBA than Shawn Marion? You telling me there's not 12 better players in college than this guy?

OK, I don't care all that much anymore, but it's been sad to see our basketball dominance end these past couple of years. Why has that happened?

1. Teams are no longer intimidated. That's for sure. In '92, players from other teams would ask for autographs and photographs with our players. I don't think anyone is asking for Emeka Okafor's autograph. Intimidation is a big advantage. We no longer have that advantage. Teams are much more confident against the USA today.

2. The NBA has definitely gone way down the past few years. Fundamentals and team play have been sacrificed for flash and one-on-one play. (This year's Pistons, the exception.) I think this is one of the most obvious signs of that.

3. We no longer send our best 12 players. In '92, you pretty much had the best 11 players in the world, along with Christian Laettner. Now, for whatever reason, injuries, fatigue, age, etc., all of our best players don't go. Shaq, T-Mac, and others come to mind this year. Then again, we definitely don't have all of our very best players over there... Shaq, T-Mac, and others come to mind.

4. No player that other players respect and listen to. The Dream Team workouts and practices have become legendary. MJ, Magic, and Bird were able to impose their will on their teammates, and refused to let other guys take plays off or not take the games seriously. There's really no one like that anymore. They used to always say about the great players, that they make the players around them better. There doesn't even seem to be many guys like that anymore.

So what do you do? Just accept that other nations have caught up with the USA? Maybe we should go back to college players. At least you know it would mean everything to them. If we can't convince our absolute best players to play in the Olympics, maybe that's what we should do. Maybe we'll come back and still win the gold. I'm gonna go and watch the rest of the NASCAR race or somethin'.

"And I don't understand why I sleep all day, and I start to complain that there's no rain. And all I can do is read a book to stay awake. And it rips my life away, but it's a great escape..."

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