The year 1992 marked the first time that professional basketball players were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games. Prior teams were made up of collegiate players and occasionally AAU players. Nicknamed the “Dream Team,” the team included such greats as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and David Robinson. The Dream Team defeated its Olympic opponents by an average of 44 points.
• For a guy who initially didn’t make his Wilmington, North Carolina high school varsity basketball team, Michael Jordan managed to come out okay! Most folks agree that he is the greatest basketball player of all time. Jordan played college ball for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, and was a member of their 1982 national championship team. In 1984, he was chosen third overall in the NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, with a first year salary of $550,000. His first NBA championship came in 1991 with the Bulls, followed by two more in 1992 and 1993. In the midst of that, he played on the 1992 Summer Olympics “Dream Team.” Jordan surprised everyone when he suddenly retired from basketball before the 1993-1994 season to try out a career in minor league baseball with the Chicago White Sox organization. The decision was based on the dream of Jordan’s late father, who had yearned for Mike to become an MLB player. His father had been murdered three months earlier.
• In March, 1995, Jordan announced his return to basketball with the press release “I’m back.” Three more NBA championships were achieved in 1996, 1997, and 1998.
• During the 1995-1996 season, he found time to star as himself in the live-action/animated film “Space Jam,” the 10th highest-grossing film of 1996. Warner Brothers Studios built a basketball court on the set for Jordan’s use on his breaks from filming.
• In January, 1999, Jordan announced his second retirement from the NBA, citing the desire to spend more time with his family. Was there a chance he would return to basketball? Jordan said he was 99.9% sure the answer was “No.” Yet in September, 2001, he came out of retirement once again to play for the Washington Wizards, an organization of which he had been part-owner and president of operations since January, 2000. On April 16, 2003, he played his final NBA game.
• Throughout his remarkable career, “His Airness” racked up six NBA championships, five NBA MVP awards, 14 All-Star games, three All-Star MVP awards, six NBA Finals MVP Awards, and 10 scoring records, among many other records.
• Charles Barkley was drafted by Philadelphia 76ers in the 1st round of the 1984 NBA Draft after a college career at Auburn University. He was often controversial and outspoken during his 16 seasons in the NBA, including a suspension for verbally abusing and spitting on a spectator. He said of himself, “I am not a role model.” Barkley moved on to the Phoenix Suns in 1992, then to the Houston Rockets in 1996. He was an 11-time All-Star, the All-Star MVP in 1991, and the NBA MVP in 1993. As a member of the U.S. Olympic “Dream Team” in 1992, he was the team’s highest-scoring member. Barkley was also on the 1996 Olympic gold team. Since his retirement in 2000, he’s been a successful NBA television analyst.