The Sixth Man: Original Dream team is still the standard

Kobe Bryant created quite a stir recently when he claimed the 2012 USA Olympic basketball team could beat the original 1992 Dream Team.

This year's version is extremely versatile and athletic, headlined by two of the best players in NBA history, Bryant and LeBron James, along with another who seems destined to go down as one of the greatest pure scorers of all-time, Kevin Durant.

On the other hand the 1992 lineup featured Hall of Fame players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Chris Mullin.

Shane Battier shared a locker room with James this past season en route to earning an NBA title with the Miami Heat. However, when it comes to comparing James' current bunch with the Dream Team, Battier went with the originals.

"Every last one of those guys is in the Hall of Fame; first ballot Hall-of- Famers," said Battier at the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. "I don't think you'll ever see a collection of talent that's as deep and as good as 1992.

"If they played against each other it would be a heck of a game, but I'm partial to the '92 team. For my money, its the greatest team ever assembled."

Battier was just 14 in 1992 but he fell in love with the game watching Jordan, Bird and Barkley among others. Jordan, in particular, carried a love-hate relationship in Battier's basketball upbringing.

"I always respected what Michael could do, but I couldn't love him," said Battier, a Motor City native. "I was all Detroit; Bad Boys all the way."

Barkley himself was even more certain about the outcome.

"Only Kobe and LeBron; those are the only two guys who would make our team," concluded Barkley. "They are two of the 10 greatest players ever in the game. I think we win by 15 or 20 points.

"We're too big for them. They've got a very small team and I think we could wear Kobe and LeBron down by putting a bunch of bodies on them. But, I think the main thing is that Patrick Ewing and David Robinson would just punish them inside."

Ewing and Robinson, of course, are both Hall of Fame big men while the 2012 USMNT sports just one legitimate center, Tyson Chandler. Chandler, the New York Knicks center, was the 2011-12 NBA Defensive Player of the Year but isn't nearly the offensive threat that Ewing or Robinson were.

Former sharpshooter and current announcer Steve Kerr, who also spent time as the Phoenix Suns general manager, also agreed that the old guard would win.

"You throw it in a simulator and see what comes out, but I'm partial to the '92 team," said Kerr, a five-time NBA champion who retired from his front office job in 2010. "I think it's the greatest team ever assembled; the firepower on that team with Jordan, (Scottie) Pippen and Barkley. Pretty tough to beat."

Even the President of the United States chimed in with his thoughts while attending the exhibition game between Brazil and Team USA in the nation's capital earlier this week.

"This is a generational thing," Barack Obama said during a halftime interview with ESPN2. "I was around in '92, I was a Bulls fan, so I've got to go with the original Dream Team."

Obama tapped into something there though, it is a generational thing.

People look back at the '92 team and forget the warts, the fact that Bird wasn't much of a factor due to back issues and a number of the players on the team weren't exactly known for their defensive acumen. Meanwhile, the competition the U.S. was facing at the time was far behind the curve.

This year's group certainly couldn't beat the 1992 Dream Team in a seven-game series but James, Bryant or Durant are capable of carrying things on any given night and fueling an upset.

Meanwhile, understand the 2012 team is a banged-up bunch. Sprinkle in the injured Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Derrick Rose and this year's club is a lot closer to the '92 team than most think.

-Craig Smith, former director of media relations for the U.S. Golf Association, contributed to this article.