The Golden Age of Basketball

July 24, 2012 | Tim Horsey

I wish I was born two decades earlier.

Okay, maybe I don’talready want to be 40 years old, but being born in 1972 (for those of you keeping score at home, that means I was born in 1992!) would have allowed me one great pleasure in life; I would have been one of the lucky witnesses to the greatest era of basketball.

I had absolutely no idea what to write for my first blog on the WNST website until I picked up a copy of Jack McCallum’s new book “Dream Team,” which follows the private and professional careers of the members of the greatest team ever assembled in sports history. After six days, I had read through all 330-some pages, and my love for basketball had sprung up once again.

I first fell in love with the game in 2005 when I was 13. In 2006, I found my favorite player when Dwyane Wade tore through the NBA playoffs en route to the NBA championship.

Ever since, basketball has been at the top of list of favorite sports along with football and hockey (baseball is close, but that’s a story for another day). The best part about basketball, however, was that I did not have my heart invested in a specific team. Yes, I consider myself a Heat fan because of my love for Wade’s game, but it is not to the same obsessive level that I adore the Ravens, Capitals, and Orioles in football, baseball, and hockey, repectively. Because of this, I can focus on following the entire league rather than invest most of my time in a certain team.

But, back to my main point.

Let’s say I was born in ’72. By the young age of nine, I would be experiencing the revival of the NBA with Magic and Bird. Like most people who did not have an NBA team in their hometown, I would most likely become attached to Bird’s Celtics or Magic’s “Showtime” Lakers.  With the 80’s came names like Isiah, Ewing, Malone, Stockton, Pippen, Barkley, and of course, Jordan, the most significant athlete of all time. There would be no way for me to resist. I’m salivating at the mouth just thinking about it (okay, maybe not literally, but you get the picture).

This all culminated with the formation of the greatest team ever assembled, and I’m not talking about the Avengers.

After reading McCallum’s detailed account of the 1992 Olympic team, I realized that today’s stars of the league are nothing compared to the stars of old. Yes, almost anyone in the world could tell you who LeBron is, and at this rate, Kevin Durant will be one of the best scorers of all-time. But neither of these men, nor any of the other current players, grip the entire world the way the Dream Team did. McCallum wrote that throngs of fans ranging in the thousands would sit outside of the Ambassador hotel (the team rented out the entire thing) to simply get a glimpse of the “gods.” When fans saw Magic or Larry, the two men that had saved basketball, they would burst into tears. Charles Barkley became an instant fan favorite because of his willingness to travel Las Ramblas at night and mingle with the fans.

And let’s not forget Michael. Yes, Michael was still playing when I was born, but I was too young to remember the peak of his powers. He was not only king of the basketball world; he was the most recognizable person in all of pop culture. He was dominating on the court and in the business world, racking up millions and millions of dollars with sponsorships from companies like Nike and Gatorade, while killing the hopes and dreams of his opponents on the court.

Everyone around the team, fans, journalists, and players alike, knew that something very special was going on, and they wanted to make sure that they were a part of it in anyway they could.

Eleven Hall-of-Famers on one squad. The names just ring through basketball lore. Michael, Magic, Larry. Sir Charles, Pippen, Ewing. Malone and Stockton. The kind of names that when mentioned, take fans back to the glory days.

I love watching guys like LeBron, Kobe, Durant, and Wade (remember, he’s one of the reasons I got into basketball) play the game. But there’s no doubt that I will always be left longing for the golden age of the NBA.