Chat with Jack McCallum
Team USA easily won gold in 1992.
"Dream Team" is the fourth book for the writer who spent nearly 30 years with Sports Illustrated. He covered the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team in Barcelona and puts together many behind the scene stories about how the team was put together, how they hung out together and everything else in his latest work.
Send your questions now and join McCallum Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (10:57 AM)
Longtime Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum will be here in a couple of minutes to take your questions!
Buzzmaster (11:01 AM)
Jack is here!
Do you think this was Chuck Daly's greatest coaching job of his career? getting all of those players to play together?
Jack McCallum (11:02 AM)
It sounds like my answer should be yes, but I would say coaching a bunch of nuts like the Pistons were, Thomas, Salley, Lambeir, Aguire, coaching that team to a championship, I think that was a heckuva lot harder than coaching the Dream Team.
What made you decide to write a book about this team now?
Jack McCallum (11:04 AM)
Well, believe it or not, I wasn't smart enough to think about the idea myself. An editor at Random House called me three years ago and he said, do you think this would be a good book? I said that I think it would because 20 years later these guys are all still fairly prominent and you gain perspective on things when time passes. That's exactly what I found talking to them now, about the experience.
Was there anything new that you learned while researching this book?
Jack McCallum (11:06 AM)
Yeah, I learned lots of little details about things that happened over there. For example, I learned that on the way to the gold medal game, the police pulled over the Croatian team bus so the Dream Team bus could pass. We couldn't see a lot of that stuff. We couldn't travel with the team, so a lot of those little things like that. I learned what side door Larry Bird went out of to get himself out of the building. I learned that Mullin and Magic used to take walks together and the guards behind them used to carry bags. They asked what was in the bags, at the end of the trip, and they said uzis. There were a lot of details I should have known, but picked up on retrospect.
Do you think a writer could travel with the U.S. Olympic team now and go golfing with the guys?
Jack McCallum (11:08 AM)
Well, I think there are some relationships between reporters and writers that are still close, but in general, no, I don't think it could happen now. I'm not going to say these guys were the last generation that understood the relationship between them and the press, but they were unusual in recognizing that cooperation was good and that it was a two-way street. The more a journalist got to know you as a person, the better it would ultimately be. I do think these guys were unique in that perspective.
did you see NBA TV's documentary? What did you think?
Jack McCallum (11:09 AM)
Outside of the parts of when I had to look at myself, I thought it was really great. The success of it, which I hope is part of the success of my book, is that they got to all of the guys now and you could tell, like I was able to, they pulled from them, how much this experience meant to them. Obviously, there's great video, but I thought it had some heart to it.
what do you think of all of this with Clyde Drexler and your book?
Jack McCallum (11:12 AM)
Well, first of all, I regret the fact that Deadspin ran an excerpt whose lead-in to it suggested that the Dream Team was the one pitying Magic. Clyde was talking about the feeling that existed in the NBA prior to the Dream Team being selected. So, it had a harsher context on the website than it does in the book. Having said that, Clyde was added as the 11th player, right before the Olympics, along with Laettner. No matter what he says, Clyde remains a little miffed about that. Really, I can't even blame him. But I don't fabricate quotes, but the most important thing in journalism is context. I think, I hope it gets straightened out in the book.
How horrendous do you think it was that people tried to name the 1996 team Dream Team II? That squad was no where near as good as the orginal.
Jack McCallum (11:15 AM)
Actually, the first team that was named Dream Team II, was the '94 World Championship team that had to qualify for the Olympics. That team, was unfortunately, for them, christened Dream Team II and began a whole strain of Dream Teams. Alonzo Mourning knew from the beginning that it was a lost cause for these guys that they were going to be compared and they weren't going to live up to it. They seemed to act in a manner that contrasted everything about the Dream Team. Point of fact, nobody should have ever been called the Dream Team, except the '92 team. I was happy when the 2008 LeBron and Kobe team had something else good to be called "The Redeem Team." Hopefully that will end the string of Dream being associated with other Olympic teams.
What kind of impact do you think the Dream Team has had in these last 20 years?
Jack McCallum (11:17 AM)
I think it's greatest impact was, to use the phrase that David Stern uses that I often make fun of, "growing the game." I don't know how many international players over the last two decades have talked about introduced to the game in 1992. Everybody thought they would be discouraged by the 40 and 50 point victories. Point of fact, to the people who were going to be real players, Nowitzki, Ginobili, Parker, what they got out of it was lessons in basketball and they said if I keep working, I can get there. I think the Dream Team demystified the game for the world even as they were crushing the world.
Deven (New York)
Hi Mr. McCallum. Was John Stockton really the most quiet member of that team? I mean, nobody even noticed him on the streets in Spain.
Jack McCallum (11:19 AM)
We had heard about the Stockton thing then. John is so self-conscious about publicity that I had trouble confirming it with him. Quietness is his nature, but he had a rival. He had a rival in that respect and that was Chris Mullin. Chris is not a real incredibly outgoing guy, prone to talk about himself.
Jack McCallum (11:19 AM)
And neither is David Robinson. So with all of those egos that you did have on that team, Magic, Michael, Charles, it was nice that were a couple of guys on the other end of the spectrum.
did chuck daly really throw the game against the college all stars on purpose?
Jack McCallum (11:21 AM)
Coach K says that on the NBA documentary. My sense that comes from both memory and reporting the book, does not quite agree with that. Yes, he didn't use Michael as much as he could, that's a fact. But some of the defensive uncertainty of the Dream Team at that point, as well as their proclivity to overpass the ball, because nobody wanted to be thought of as selfish, contributed to the defeat as much as Chuck's "playing rotation."
What did you I've heard that you were able to hang out with the team, play golf with them, etc...how were you able to get such good access?
Jack McCallum (11:23 AM)
The only reason anyone can get access in an international Olympic setting is that you have a relationship with the players before the Games begin. Fortunately for me, I had had a pretty good relationship with players like Barkley, Karl Malone and, yes, Clyde Drexler. You couldn't have fought your way into the inner circle once the Dream Team got together. You had to have something established beforehand, because there was too much security around them.
Jack McCallum (11:25 AM)
The book is available on July 10. I've been Tweeting about it. One thing I want to make clear is that I don't think these guys were the last generation of great basketball players. LeBron, Durant, and maybe a couple of others could have been on that team, but don't ask me to say who shouldn't have been in their place.