US basketball Dream Team hit town

US begin their quest to emulate the 1992 legends with ominously easy win over France

When Kobe Bryant suggested that his current United States basketball side would beat the original 1992 Dream Team, one of the latter, Charles Barkley “just started laughing”.

He could perhaps have come up with a version of the old Bill Shankly line when some modern upstart was once compared to the great Tom Finney and conceded that it might just be possible, although Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Co are either already in or about to enter their sixth decade.

Barkley, a television pundit these days, would have been entitled to raise an eyebrow at the end of the first quarter this afternoon when the US were being held 22-21 by France in the first defence of their 2008 title.  The French, runners-up to Spain in the last EuroBasket, have no shortage of NBA talent themselves, but from that point the Group A match ran away from them and they finished well beaten by 98-71. 

The US are favourites for the men’s title that they have won in 13 of the 16 occasions it has been contested. The only exceptions were in 1972 when Russia knocked them out by a single point; in the American boycott of 1980 (related to politics, not the previous defeat); and eight years ago when Argentina sprang a surprise by beating them in the semi-final and went on to the take the gold medal.

This time Spain, who the Americans beat in the Beijing final, and play in Great Britain’s Group B, are again regarded as their strongest rivals, with Argentina and Brazil leading the South American challenge; but the fact that France, also contenders, were beaten so comfortably in the end by a team only occasionally racing through the gears, suggests the mantle of favouritism may not be an undue burden.

The highest scorer with 22  points today was Kevin Durant, scoring champion for the past three seasons in the NBA.  Bryant, Lebron James and the 7ft 1in Tyson Chandler also entertained a crowd that was full to 12,000 capacity by the finish and included no less a VIP than Michelle Obama. As seems par for most events at the Games, they also had to put up with a manic master of ceremonies, whose favourite game was to pick out a couple on the big screen and demand that they indulge in a quick snog. What the crowd were not allowed to see on the screen was any of the instant replays available to a television audience; understandable, arguably, in the case of the many fouls that litter a match but disappointing when it comes to baskets, spectacular or more mundane.

France appeared over-reliant on their star man (and shortest at a mere 6ft 1), who bears the unlikely Francophone name of Tony Parker. Born in Belgium to an American father who played professionally and a Dutch mother, he kept his team in the match early on but admits that he is not fully fit since suffering an eye injury in an NBA game that forces him to wear goggles during matches.

It was the countries’ first meeting since the 2000 Olympic final, which the US won 85-75;  they should be more straightforward winners in their next matches, against Tunisia on Tuesday and Nigeria on Thursday before taking on the stronger Lithuania and Argentina. One of the delights of the Olympics to discover countries who are unexpectedly successful at a particular sport; Lithuania turn out to have been semi-finalists in each of the past five tournaments, winning the bronze medal three times. As the top four from each group of six qualify for the quarter-finals, they will expect to progress to the quarter-finals again at least, probably with the Americans, France and Argentina from Group A. That would eliminate Nigeria and Tunisia, who met in the opening match yesterday, the former edging it 60-56.  

Durant said later: “We just played with attitude, fighting for each ball, defending hard and getting every rebound. That’s how we beat teams that are hard to beat. If [opponents] made it to the Olympics, it’s because they are good. We just have to play hard and we’ll be fine.” 

The American coach Mike Krzyzewski denied that nerves were responsible for his team’s slow start. “These guys don’t have jitters,” he said. “There was an adjustment to a new venue and the way the game was administered but this was a really good day for us. A good first step in beating an outstanding side.” 

The 65-year-old provides a link to the 1992 team in that he was an assistant coach then, although he assuredly does not find such comparisons from the likes of Bryant helpful. “They were at the end of their careers [whereas] we have a bunch of racehorses,” Bryant had said. Barkley settled for a horse-laugh in response.  

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower