London 2012 Olympics: USA Men's Basketball Team Win Gold, but They're no Dream Team

14/08/2012 14:31 BST | Updated 13/10/2012 10:12 BST

20 years after 'The Greatest Team Ever Assembled' was, erm, assembled, a new group arrived in London hoping to not only replicate, but also better the achievements of 1992s Dream Team.

The USA men's basketball side that won gold in Barcelona back at the beginning of the 90s is stuff of legend, and the greatest team tag could well be applicable across any sport.

The class of 2012 has matched their accomplishment, at least in basic terms, by winning gold in London. However, the same cannot be said in terms of how they did it.

The comparisons had begun long-before the competition itself, just as they did with all other teams that have followed since the Games that saw NBA players make their Olympics debut.

When 'Team USA' beat Nigeria by 83 points, they set a new record winning margin (the biggest margin '92s team could muster was a 'meager' 68), and a new record points total (127 was the highest two decades ago), those comparisons started to get louder, and looked more accurate than ever.

However, that mammoth victory only came after comfortable but at times sloppy performances in their opening two matches. They were missing three-pointers and making fouls, but the Nigeria match was where they seemingly woke up.

Similarly, they struggled - or as much as a team of such quality can struggle - against Lithuania, winning by a margin of only five points (their lowest winning margin of the whole tournament). By contrast, the lowest winning margin of the '92 side was 32 points, and that came in the gold-medal match against Croatia.

Spain were the gold-medal opposition this year, and the 2008 silver medalists and reigning European Champions pushed USA all the way. They won the second quarter 31-24, went in at half-time level and drew the third quarter as well. It was only in the final minutes that the overall class of USA shone through, resulting in a 107-100 victory.

The current Team USA are, to be fair, probably a victim of the juggernaut that was the 1992 team. Not only in terms of the huge level of expectation placed upon their - admittedly rather broad - shoulders, although that should not be discounted, but also the impact that team had on basketball globally.

At the start of the 1991-92 season, there were 23 international players from 18 countries; at the start of last season, that number had increased to 74 international players from 35 countries.

And it isn't just more international players in the NBA, but also an increased strength in the European game. The bulk of Spain's squad, for example, now silver medalists two games in a row, comes from their own league.

There was expectation on Chuck Daly's side too though - more pressure, if anything, as theirs was the first Olympics to permit NBA players to compete.

The average margin of victory for 1992s team was 43.75 points, with a median margin of 43. For 2012, the average was 37.33, and the median 33. 11 of the 12 players to make up the roster in 1992 have gone on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame; of the 12 in 2012, only two - Kobe Bryant and LeBron James - are certain future inductees. Probably added to that list, if they keep doing what they are, will be Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. It is perhaps worth noting, though, that the likes of Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were all missing this summer.

So, while nothing should detract from the achievement of this current side, there is only one Dream Team, and it existed 20 years ago. When Bryant said that the current side would beat 1992s, Charles Barkley said he "just started laughing." The gold medal is unlikely to stop him.