Only Charles Barkley can explain the dream and nightmare scenarios that accompanied his two-Olympic trips as a member of the fabled Dream Teams.
It appears the second version of TEAM USA consisting of NBA players — wasn’t a dream at all.
Four years after the greatest assimilation of talent in history — Barkley detailed his experience playing on a Lenny Wilkens led Team USA trying to rekindle the lofty standard set by the ’92 team.
“The first Dream Team was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” says Barkley. “The second Dream Team was one of the worst experiences of my life. [In ’92,] for a couple of months, we got along like it was the greatest thing. In ’96, guys started complaining about playing time; guys were, like, ‘Well, I should be starting,’ and I was, like, ‘Wait a minute. You all ain’t even that good compared to the team I used to be on.’ We had a couple guys—I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus—who skipped practice because they didn’t start or weren’t getting enough practice time. It was not a lot of fun hearing guys bitch all the time about who was starting.”
Without Michael Jordan, Magic or Bird among them — the 96 team had a huge leadership void — despite having stars on the team like Shaq, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Gary Payton and others.
Stockton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Barkley barely played — with Charles saying that the younger guys were bitching.
“Those were the two guys who weren’t bitching and complaining, that’s why!” Barkley says. “I think my minutes went down, too. I told Lenny, ‘Coach, I got my gold medal, man.’ The older guys played less because the younger guys were complaining the whole time. Stockton really wanted to play more in ’96 because he was banged up in ’92. He ended up playing less because the young guys were complaining.”
Team USA — like the All Star Game — isn’t for everyone.