Dream Team Time

LED by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, this is the sports equivalent of the US invasion of Grenada. For sheer athleticism and ability, no sports team in history has ever matched the 1992 US Olympic basketball team that begins play in Barcelona on Sunday.

Mere all-stars? Not. They are NBA all-star all-stars; a modern Mount Olympus pantheon. The question isn't can anyone beat them, but can anyone stay on the same court? Does the first team of Bird, Johnson, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley get winded? Bring on the "bench": David Robinson, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin. Having trouble on the boards? Send in The Mailman, Karl Malone. Who gets garbage time at game's end? Duke's buzzer-beating Christian Laett-ner. Coach Chuck Da ly, so far, has been consumed mainly with grueling questions like: How do you protect a 60-point lead?

Sunday's game is against Angola. By comparison, Little Big Horn seems humane.

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Of course the games aren't fair. Gloating is silly and ignoble. Americans love a fair fight. One may get ambivalent watching Jordan, four feet off the ground in mid-flight, slam-dunking team Ireland. Without real competition, too much "dream team" onslaught may be worth only the sound of one hand clapping.

But who is to blame? The US didn't push for this; it voted against professional athletes competing in the Olympics - one of few to do so. But now it can win back the gold medal US college Joes lost to 7-foot East bloc "amateur" players with gray hair.

Of course, after all the hype and hullabaloo, if they lose, the dream team would have to file for citizenship on the isle of Elba.

But let's keep the moralizing about overkill down. Don't forget, the opposing players love basketball too. Most would give anything to run in an NBA scrimmage. In Barcelona they have a rare chance to play against the best ever.

We suspect they will be applauding too - with both hands.

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