You guys aren't going to believe this, but Charles Barkley has an opinion about something that someone else said. No, I know — crazy, right?
The famously vocal Hall of Famer, TNT commentator and member of the 1992 U.S. men's Olympic basketball team, better known as the Dream Team, caught wind of comments made by Kobe Bryant (and faithfully disseminated here at Fourth-Place Medal) that, if the 2012 version of Team USA laced 'em up against that fabled '92 crew, this year's model would "pull it out," owing in part to what Bryant sees as 2012's superior youth, athleticism and depth at the wing positions.
[ Photos: No-lympians: NBA pros not playing in London ]
It was a blithe, idle jab, the kind of thing that you'd expect any competitor (let alone one as pathologically intense as Kobe) to say, and offered a fun little topic to argue from our desk chairs and barstools on Wednesday. And whenever there's a barstool argument brewing — it helps if it's basketball-related, but it needn't be — you can expect the brash Mr. Barkley to bow his back and get to blarin'.
He did so Wednesday during an appearance on Philadelphia sports talk radio station 97.5 the Fanatic. You can hear the audio above, thanks to our friends at the Yahoo! Sports Minute, and read the transcript below, thanks to our other friends at Sports Radio Interviews. Essentially, Charles channels Hova from the "Diamonds" remix: Pardon me, I had to laugh at that.
"I've got to tell you, I just started laughing, because how old is Kobe Bryant? [ED. NOTE: He's 33.] … And he's calling us old? At the time, we were only 28 or 29. That just made me laugh. … Michael Jordan and me are the same age because he's two days older than me, so we were both 29. Other than Kobe, LeBron and Kevin Durant, I don't think anybody else on that team makes our team."
Hit the jump for more from Sir Charles on the Dream Team vs. 2012 debate, including an interesting take on what a LeBron vs. Jordan matchup might look like.
OK, so you don't think the 2012 squad has any shot, Charles. But you don't think this team's talented point guard trio of Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook could either A) give you guys some trouble or B) have competed for a roster spot against the likes of John Stockton and — on pure on-court merit at the time — Magic Johnson?
"We wasn't going to get beat by no point guard. No disrespect, but we weren't going to be beat by a point guard, and they had no answer for David Robinson and Patrick Ewing, to be honest with you."
So you'd say your squad by double digits, right?
"Oh yeah. And that's no disrespect. I ain't got to badmouth them, but like I said, you take away their point guards. Their point guards weren't going to beat us. That's a no-brainer."
That's a completely legitimate perspective — a 2012 Team USA roster featuring a solitary 7-foot defender (New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler) should certainly get eaten alive by Robinson and Ewing, two of the 10 or 12 best big men in the history of the game. (I'm still not convinced a Jordan-led team would ever work inside-out, but if they did, it'd be curtains for '12.)
While I could definitely see 2012's point guards giving Stockton and Magic fits on the defensive end, it's totally reasonable to suggest that any team featuring Jordan, Barkley, Robinson, Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone, all on the right side of 30 and in their ostensible athletic and competitive primes, would beat any team this galaxy could throw at them. It's also an arguable perspective that they wouldn't win every game they ever played by double figures; that a team featuring LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul and Bryant wouldn't simply get blown off the floor; and that it's by no means impossible that on the right day with the wrong matchups, even the Dream Team could get got.
[ Video: 'Dream Team' redemption in 1992 ]
Hey, imagine that: Two positions for which you can make a case, neither of which are totally crazy and both of which are fun to consider and support. Hooray, sports!
After reasserting his '92 team's primacy, Barkley then considered an interesting follow-up question we touched on in the initial Kobe post — what would happen if LeBron and M.J. found themselves matched up?
Do you think LeBron James would have been a good defender against Michael Jordan?
"He would give Michael problems. Once LeBron wins three or four championships ... I would never put anybody above Michael Jordan, but he's going to be in the conversation. Michael Jordan is 6-foot-6, 225 [pounds]. LeBron James is 6-foot-8, 260, probably jumps as high, just as fast. As you saw in the playoffs, I told people, he's probably the only guy in the world who has a legitimate chance of guarding Kevin Durant because he's big enough at 6-foot-8 and quick enough and strong enough. … He can't stop Kevin, but he made it tough for Kevin to score or dominate any game in that series. [...]
How would Michael defend LeBron?
"LeBron, you noticed a difference in his game this year where he was posting up more. That would be the difference. Michael, he's too little for LeBron."
It sounds like you're saying LeBron would have his way with Michael.
"I don't know if anybody's going to have their way with Michael, because Michael's the most competitive person. One of the negative things that I've always thought about LeBron, he's not a natural-born killer. The only advantage Michael and Kobe have on LeBron, they want to score 40 a night. LeBron would rather have a triple-double. I don't think anybody's going to have their way on anybody."
That ... that sounds downright diplomatic, Charles. You're mellowing in your old age!
Barkley's answer, while somewhat of a fence-ride, is about the only reasonable one you can really offer in that sort of situation. It's impossible to imagine James — who probably walks around bigger than the size Barkley suggested, and I've heard pegged at 6-foot-9 and 270, at least — having any trouble backing down and bullying Jordan on the offensive end, but on the other hand, the images of Jordan annihilating defenders of all shapes, sizes and skill-sets are still too fresh in our minds for us to really be able to envision even a defender as big, quick and talented as LeBron being able to hold M.J. down for very long. It's hard to imagine that matchup being a clear win one way or the other.
But boy, it's fun to try imagining it, isn't it?
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