Christian Laettner Reflects Upon Dream Team Memories
This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 USA Basketball “Dream Team.” The Dream Team forever will go down in basketball and Olympic history as one of the finest, if not the greatest, collection of talent ever assembled for one sports team. It featured 14 future Hall of Famers (11 players and three coaches) and won by an average of almost 44 points per game en route to the gold medal.
The team was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010, one of only eight teams to ever be enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Eleven professional players were selected to play on the team along with the 1992 NCAA Player of the Year, Christian Laettner. After being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1992, Laettner played 13 seasons in the NBA.
USA Basketball caught up with Laettner to reminisce on the memories of the “Dream Team.”
Can you share your thoughts on the Dream Team?
Well, I remember a little more of it now because of the documentary that just came out. That was a lot of fun to get the memories flowing back. It was fun to hear everyone else’s opinion and angle on everything.
The thing I enjoyed the most was when Coach K finally came out and admitted that Chuck Daly threw that one scrimmage against the college kids. Twenty years ago when it happened I remember walking off the court and I’m like, ‘what the hell just happened?’ They (coaching staff) didn’t play Michael Jordan much and Chuck Daly didn’t say one word, so I knew something fishy was going on. So when Coach K finally exposed that, I found it really funny and I just kept laughing to myself knowing something had been going on.
Can you believe it has been 20 years since the Dream Team played in the Olympics?
This has come full circle for me. Twenty years ago I was over there being interviewed by everybody, and now I am part of the media interviewing them. It’s a really interesting dynamic going on there.
How do you feel about this year’s USA Team?
All I want to see happen is the guys play great and beat everyone by 50 and bring home a gold medal again. I want us to blow everybody out and show the world that we are by far the most dominant basketball country. I want us to annihilate everybody. That’s kind of the mindset we had in ’92. Jordan, Pippen, Bird and Magic wanted to annihilate everyone because it was an insult for anyone to even think they could play with us.
What does it mean to you when you look back now and realize you played alongside some of the NBA’s greatest players?
What it means is that I was just lucky. I was the luckiest person in the world. To go from the top of the college game and go right to the best of the best in the NBA was just an unbelievable experience for me and an unbelievable feeling. It really helped me for my rookie year in the league. It helped me with how hard I had to work and how dedicated I had to be, so it was a lot of fun.
Do you think there will be another team assembled like the Dream Team?
There will never be a team quite like that because it was the first year pro guys were let in. It was so unique for that reason. Another thing that made it unique was it had Magic, Larry and Michael Jordan on the team. Magic and Larry were the face of the NBA for so long. Michael will be the face forever and ever.
What does winning the gold medal and the two NCAA championships at Duke mean to you?
Those three things mean everything. What I cherish the most are the two championships because I had a bigger direct role in those victories. It was great being on the Dream Team, but they would have won it without me. I feel good about the gold medal, but when you have more of a direct hand in the victory it means a little more.
Do you ever get tired of seeing your infamous game winning buzzer-beating shot versus Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA Tournament?
No, it doesn’t get old for me. It might get old for other people but it doesn’t for me. It’s a great memory.