Being in the NBA is a great achievement. All the more reason to win a championship. However, nothing shines quite like taking home an Olympic medal. Not only is this an incredible feat, it shows dominance on the world stage. It also only happens every four years.
The USA has a long tradition of winning Olympic basketball. Still, Michael Jordan’s teams stood out even more than most current rosters. Jordan helped the US team win two gold medals (1984, 1992).
I’ll break them down below and show what made them so special.
All gold, honey
Before we go into detail, it’s first important to break down how well the US has done in its Olympic history. Basketball first became an official Olympic sport in 1936. Since then there have been 20 eligible Summer Games. The United States has won 16 of them.
This dominance is insane and shows how far ahead the US (and the NBA) are compared to the rest of the world. While the games have drawn closer recently, largely due to the influx of foreign players into the NBA, America has still won seven of its last eight competitions.
Putting that into perspective, it’s easy to see how Jordan managed to take home gold at every opportunity. However, since the Olympics only take place every four years, it has not had the long-term success that many suspect.
Jordan’s first foray into the Olympics came during the 1984 Olympics, where he led a team of future Hall of Famers through the tournament and to first place. They drove past the competition and easily took home the prize.
Jordan was young during the run, but it quickly cemented him as an international superstar. Despite this, he did not play in 1988 due to new rules prohibiting NBA players from competing in the Olympics. USA did well but ended up third after losing to Russia.
The loss was a big deal and caught the attention of everyone in the world. After a major push and much backlash, the Olympic Committee decided to let NBA players back in during the 1992 Barcelona Games. After the ban was lifted, Jordan returned.
live the dream
No Olympic team, perhaps any sport, is more famous than the 1992 Dream Team. Not only did they have superstars, they had a collection of some of the greatest players of all time.
Jordan was the frontman, but they also had Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and Clyde Drexler. It was a full Hall of Famer cast that predictably won the tournament easily, reaffirming the United States as the best in the basketball world.
The Dream Team faced very little adversity and won every competition by a wide margin. It was a spectacle that showcased the power of the NBA on the world stage. It was also the beginning of a long history and winning culture that continues to this day.
It was a great run and it would be Jordan’s last. While he won two other gold medals at the 1983 Pan American Games and the 1992 Tournament of the Americas, the only years he won real medals at the Summer Olympics were 1984 and 1992.
He skipped the 1996 Olympics because he was in the middle of his comeback and didn’t want to hurt himself, and by the time the 2000 Olympics started he was retired and too old. Still, two is impressive and adds to his already lengthy resume.
Winning an Olympic medal is not only difficult, it’s something almost nobody gets the chance to do. Jordan didn’t just win one either. He took home several and dominated every time. It’s not that his team was special, it’s that no other group came close to being as big.