Being in the NBA is a huge achievement. Winning a championship even more so. However, nothing shines quite like taking home an Olympic medal. That’s not just an incredible feat, it shows dominance on a world stage. It also only happens once every four years.
The USA has a long tradition of winning Olympic basketball titles. Even so, Michael Jordan’s teams stood out even more than most current rosters. Jordan has helped the USA team win two gold medals (1984, 1992).
I’ll break them down, and show what made them so special, below.
All Gold, Baby
Before getting into the specifics, it’s first important to break down how well the U.S.A has fared throughout their Olympic history. Basketball first became an official Olympic sport in 1936. Since that time, there have been 20 eligible summer games. The United States has won 16 of them.
That dominance is insane, and shows how far ahead the USA (and the NBA) is compared to the rest of the world. While games have gotten closer as of late, mainly due to the influx of foreign players into the NBA, America has still won seven of the last eight contests.
Putting that into perspective, it’s easy to see how Jordan managed to take home Gold every chance he got. However, as the Olympics only come about once every four years, he didn’t have the long-term success that many might assume.
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 into first place. They cruised past the competition and easily took home the prize.
Jordan was young during the run, but it quickly solidified him as an international superstar. Even so, he didn’t play in 1988 due to new rules that banned NBA players from entering the Olympics. The USA put up a good fight, but they eventually came in third after losing to Russia.
The defeat was a big deal, and made everyone in the world took notice. After a big push )and plenty of backlash) the Olympic committee decided to let NBA players back in during the 1992 games in Barcelona. With the ban lifted, Jordan returned.
Living the Dream
No Olympic team, perhaps of any sport, is more famous than the 1992 Dream Team. They didn’t just have superstar, they had a collection of some of the greatest players ever.
Jordan was the front man, but they also had Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and Clyde Drexler. It was a full hall of fame cast that, predictably, easily won the tournament and recemented the United States as the best in the basketball world.
The Dream Team faced very little adversity, and won every contest by a huge margin. It was a spectacle that showed the power of the NBA on the world stage. It also kicked off a long history and winning culture that still exists to this day.
It was a great run, and it would be Jordan’s last. While he did earn two more gold medals at the 1983 Pan American Games and the 1992 Tournament of the Americas, 1984 and 1992 were the only years where he got true medals at the Summer Olympic Games.
He sat out the 1996 Olympics since he was in the middle of his comeback and didn’t want to get hurt, and by the time the 2000 Olympics rolled around he had retired and was too old. Still, two is impressive and adds to his already lengthy resume.
Winning an Olympic medal isn’t just hard, it’s something almost nobody gets the opportunity to do. Jordan didn’t just win one either. He took home multiple and dominated every time. It’s not that his team was special, it’s that no other group has been anywhere near as big.