Dream Team Book Q/A: Best show ever in basketball; landing an interview with elusive Jordan

Jack McCallum was witness to one of the greatest miracles in sports: He saw me make a birdie on the par 3 12th hole at Augusta National. I dropped a six-iron to within four feet and actually made the putt. Not bad for a 15-handicapper who was playing like a 30 prior to that hole.

“Pretty good shot,” said McCallum, recalling our round the day after Jose Maria Olazabal’s victory in the 1999 Masters.

While it was the highlight of my pitiful sporting career (note: this is my blog and I will try to tell that tale as often as possible), McCallum has seen much greater feats of athletic prowess. Perhaps none were greater than the collective talents of the original “Dream Team.”

Twenty years later, the long-time Sports Illustrated writer is out this week with what should be the hottest sports book of the summer: Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry and Charles and the greatest team of all time conquered the world and changed the game of basketball forever.

It seems like every sports book these days has the “changed the game forever” kicker. Publishers must think it adds some gravitas to entice sales.

Often the label isn’t deserved, but not in this case. The Dream Team did change basketball, and sports for that matter.

It was an unprecedented, and never duplicated, array of transcendent superstars playing for the same team; 11 of the 12 players are in the Hall of Fame. The Dreamers featured Michael Jordan, fresh off a second NBA championship with the Bulls, trying to grab the torch away from Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, two aging stars who saved the NBA in the 80s.

McCallum writes, “It couldn’t have been scripted any better, and when the Dreamers finally released all that star power into a collective effort, the show was better than everyone thought it would be…and everyone had thought it would be pretty damn good.”

McCallum, who covered the team from beginning to end, brings his A-game in telling the many stories and taking readers behind the scenes. He includes personal moments of covering the team, including the time he and fellow David Dupree asked to get a picture taken with the team.

McCallum writes that the moment was incredibly awkward, leaving him open to some good-natured verbal abuse from Bird. “Hey Jack,” drawled Bird, “later on, you wanna blow us?”

On that note, here’s my Q/A with Jack:

There’s no talk about this year’s U.S. Olympic team. What made that team so special in 1992?

It’s a cliche, but it was the perfect storm. There was the first time news angle. Then there was the fact that the international stage was set for them. All of sudden at a time (when overseas fans) were experiencing the NBA as an appetizer, here comes the whole entree in the form of the greatest team ever.

I think it was the only time in the sporting culture where NBA players were the biggest stars. LeBron James is huge, but I don’t think, fair or not, he has the same positive impact across the culture like they did back then.

Those guys truly were rock stars. What was it like to travel with them?

I had seen a mini-version of it with Jordan. The best way to describe it is when they got to Barcelona, there was thousands of people surrounding the hotel. I thought, OK, maybe it will be like this for a day or two. On day 17, they were still there. To this day, I still have a hard time trying to figure it out.

In the book, you revisited many of the players and did portraits of their lives today. Why did you take that route?

As you know, access sucks at the Olympics. I was not inside the bubble. I needed to talk to the players to get information on what occurred during the Olympics.

I also wanted to see what they’re doing now. I wasn’t looking to do a Boys of Summer. These are famous guys even in retirement. But I still knew I could find out something else about them. For instance,  to see David Robinson run his school in San Antonio, that puts him in perspective.

Michael Jordan doesn’t do many interviews these days. How difficult was it to get him?

It was difficult. He’s at war with Sports Illustrated (for mocking his attempt at baseball), although that didn’t have anything to do with me. I made it clear this was not a SI project. Finally, I got, ‘Michael Jordan will see you. But it only will be for 15 minutes and you must keep your questions to the Dream Team.’

I knew I was OK. He’s not Charles Barkley, but he’s pretty honest. Michael is an incredible bullshitter and I knew he’d talk about anything. I also knew it wouldn’t be for 15 minutes. The key was getting in the room. It was a great interview. Afterward, I had a sense of relief wash over me. I got him.

Talk about Jordan’s teammate, Scottie Pippen.

He surprised me. Pippen always got the shortshrift. Every time, I came to Chicago, I’d wind up writing Jordan. One time I came in to write Horace Grant and still wound up writing Jordan.

I found a guy in Pippen who you could clearly see how this experience meant so much to him. He couldn’t believe it when he got invited. The way it validated his career was interesting. Chris Mullin said the same thing. Karl Malone, in his own way, did too. It was interesting to me to see how much these guys needed that validation.

What is the legacy of the Dream Team?

All the players wanted to make the point that there was only one Dream Team. Don’t get into this BS about a Dream Team II. As accomplished as they were individually, they all knew they were on the one team that was different. They knew not only how meaningful it was to them, but also across the entire history of basketball.












Saturday flashback: Harry Caray interview with Jordan, the baseball player; game highlights at Wrigley

Harry Caray was prone to a little hyperbole. So don’t quite believe him when he opens his interview with Michael Jordan, wearing a White Sox uniform, by saying, “It is the biggest thrill of my life.”

Still, it was a unique day. Caray interviewed Jordan prior to a Cubs-White Sox exhibition game on April 7, 1994. It was the only game Jordan played in a Major League park. As usual, Jordan rose to the occasion, going 2 for 5, including a double.

Terrific Skip Bayless/First Take spoof of ESPN Jordan ad

Give Skip Bayless credit for poking fun at himself.

He is subject of a new ESPN ad for First Take. It uses a variation of the terrific spot that ran in the spring, which focused on people’s disappointed reactions to meeting an unfortunate soul named Michael Jordan.

The First Take ad spoofs the intense polarizing response people have to Bayless. It includes cameos from Stephen A. Smith and ESPN’s Matthew Berry.

And here’s the original Jordan ad. Makes me laugh every time.

Get ready for return of Dream Team; NBA TV documentary debuts tonight

Given our love for anniversaries with round numbers, the 20-year mark for the legendary 1992 Olympics powerhouse will be front and center this summer. It begins with an NBA TV documentary simply titled, The Dream Team. It debuts Wednesday at 9 p.m. (ET) and will be replayed about a million times.

Then coming in July, Jack McCallum, who covered that bunch for Sports Illustrated, will be out with a new book, Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever.

Quite a mouthful, Jack.

Both the documentary and the book are excellent. I’m planning an interview with Jack soon.

Then again, how could they miss given the subjects?

It was an unprecedented, and never duplicated, array of transcendent superstars playing for the same team; 11 of the 12 players are in the Hall of Fame. The Dreamers featured Michael Jordan, fresh off a second NBA championship with the Bulls, trying to grab the torch away from Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, two aging stars who saved the NBA in the 80s.

The documentary details the over-the-top rock star adoration that greeted the team at every stop. And for contrast, there’s great footage of John Stockton, the short white guard, going unrecognized as he walked through the streets of Barcelona with his family.

Indeed, the best part of the documentary is the behind-the-scenes accounts of the team. It includes never-before-seen footage of an intense scrimmage in Monte Carlo in which respective team captains Jordan and Johnson played as if it was the Chicago Stadium for the NBA Finals.

There’s much more. You come away from the documentary feeling the same way as the players. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone.

Said Jordan: “What we did will go down in history as one of the biggest, biggest things that ever happened. And it won’t ever be duplicated.”




Dream Team rises again in NBA TV documentary

The U.S. basketball team will have plenty of star power in London, but there will be only one Dream Team.

Twenty years ago in Barcelona, a team for the ages transformed basketball. A new documentary on NBA TV (Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET) chronicles Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, Patrick, Scottie and the rest with interviews and rare footage.

I’ll have more next week, but here’s a video clip with the release below.

From NBA TV:

NBA TV will celebrate the 20th anniversary of USA Basketball’s iconic team, which captured the attention of fans around the globe, when the network premieres NBA TV’s “The Dream Team” presented by Right Guard on Wednesday, June 13, at 9 p.m. ET.

Narrated by writer/director/producer Ed Burns, the film will be the definitive documentary of the historic 1992 USA Basketball team, featuring recent interviews with all 12 members, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley.

The 90-minute documentary will showcase never-before-seen footage and untold stories of how the most dominant team ever assembled returned USA Basketball to glory, while turning basketball into a global phenomenon.

The world had rarely seen a frenzy as the one the Dream Team created when it arrived in Barcelona, Spain, in July 1992. The Dream Team featured 11 future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame players and three future Hall of Famers on the coaching staff, including head coach Chuck Daly.

NBA TV’s “The Dream Team” presented by Right Guard® will take viewers on a behind-the-scenes journey into the selection of the team, the dynamic personalities, the legendary team-building experiences in training camp and exhibitions, and ultimately its rock-star-type unveiling in Barcelona.

NBA TV’s “The Dream Team” presented by Right Guard® will include:
· Exclusive one-on-one interviews with the entire Dream Team: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, and John Stockton, as well as assistant coaches Lenny Wilkens, Mike Krzyzewski, and P.J. Carlesimo
· The Team’s only loss, as documented through rare footage from USA Basketball’s film library, and the untold story behind what has become part of basketball legend
· The Story of the greatest game never seen, featuring exclusive footage from 20 years ago in Monte Carlo when Magic and Jordan went head-to-head in practice
· How The Team was chosen: the story behind the selection process for the Dream Team’s roster
· Many other exclusive interviews with those connected to the team.

Jordan looks forward to Ryder Cup; Rolfing show focuses on Chicago

Michael Jordan doesn’t do much in the way of sit down interviews these days. Especially if the questions are about the Charlotte Bobcats.

However, there are two reasons why Mark Rolfing got a chat with him; he is good friends with the basketball legend and the subject was the Ryder Cup.

An interview with Jordan will be featured on the latest edition of Rolfing’s Global Golf Adventure, which airs Saturday on NBC at 1 p.m. ET. The show focuses on the Ryder Cup coming to Chicago in September.

The Ryder Cup is Jordan’s favorite sporting event. He never misses it. And with the Ryder Cup in Chicago, where he remains a sporting God, and at Medinah Country Club, where he is a member, you can bet he will receive plenty of love from NBC’s cameras.

Said Jordan during the interview with Rolfing:

“I think it’’s a great, great sports town for all sports, not just basketball.  For football, the Bears have been strong for years, you have the competition, the rivalry between the Cubs and the White Sox, and you know obviously the Bulls have made its impact, even the hockey team has been just as strong. The fans are so passionate there in Chicago and I think they’’re truly going to enjoy the Ryder Cup. If they have never been, they are going to see an unbelievable event. And for me, it’’s truly a highlight.

The show also features interviews with “Mr. Cub”, Ernie Banks, and Dustin Johnson.