Pat Riley picking against LeBron James? Yes, but only in a historical context.
Amid his interview tour of South Florida radio stations, the Miami Heat president landed on 640 Sports and smack into the middle of a debate with no easy answer for someone who just six weeks ago shared in an NBA championship with James and previously did the same while coaching Magic Johnson with the Los Angeles Lakers decades ago.
Asked by host Orlando Alzugaray about the merits of the current U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team, one that includes James, against the original, 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team, Riley left little doubt where he stands.
“I am absolutely amazed that anybody on this Olympic team would actually think they could come within 10 points of the Dream Team,” he said.
Riley followed up by recognizing that he might have gone to a place better avoided.
“I’m only saying that,” he said, “because I know it’s going to go out on Twitter.”
He then paused, laughed, and added, “And I’ll make my friend Magic Johnson happy.”
James and current Olympic teammate Kobe Bryant both have said they believe the 2012 U.S. roster could take a game from the 1992 U.S. Olympic team that featured Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and 11 current members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“As a competitor, you never want to say that you will lose no matter who you are going against,” James said on a recent appearance on ABC’s “Nightline.”
But James also tempered that comment by adding, “The ’92 Dream Team paved the way for all of us. . . . We understand what they did for our game, but we also are big-time competitors as well. So if we got the opportunity to play them in a game, we feel like we would win, too.”
Riley made his comments before the United States pummeled Nigeria 156-73 Thursday at the London Games, in the highest-scoring performance in Olympic men’s basketball history.
“But I would love to see it,” Riley said of such a theoretical matchup. “I would love to see it, I would love to see it, I guarantee you. It would be speed against size, because back then we had some big guys, you know.”
That’s when Riley also somewhat backed off.
“You can always compare different eras and different teams, and I think it’s best just to leave it alone and let everybody enjoy exactly what we experienced,” he said.
Now back in South Florida, Riley was in Barcelona last week alongside James when the United States played a pair of pre-Olympic exhibitions. Riley also was in attendance in 1992 when the original Dream Team romped to gold in the Barcelona Olympics.
“I was there in ’92 watching them play, watching Michael and all of them, Charles Barkley, all of them play and dominate,” he said.
“And I do believe that we’re going to watch this team do the same thing this year.”
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