I finished 2012 with two books about two of my favorite teams ever.
Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever – Jack McCallum. This is a perfect accounting of the perfect team: the 1992 US men’s basketball team. The long-time Sports Illustrated NBA writer goes into the history of international basketball, how pros were approved to play in the Olympics, how the Dream Team came together, and then their epic two months as a functioning unit. Along the way, he drops in on members of the team to show where they are today.
It isn’t an exhaustive account, and that’s where I think McCallum chose wisely. He hits all the big issues surrounding the team. Notably whether Isaiah Thomas made the roster or not, the sometimes tense yet friendly Alpha Dog battle between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, and some of the lingering issues (Clyde Drexler still thinking he was just as good as Jordan). If you loved the Dream Team, you’ll love this book.
The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team – Wayne Coffey. The Miracle on Ice is 33 years old next month. Wow. And I still remember that night very well.
Coffey revisits the team’s history through the history of the legendary USA-USSR Olympic hockey semifinal match played on February 22, 1980. As the game progresses, he zigs and zags from the team’s selection, to Herb Brooks’ maniacal coaching style, to brief sketches of each player’s life. Like McCallum, he tends to be brief. I think this was a book that should be gone a little deeper, though. That said, it’s still a very fun read.
Especially interesting are the tidbits about what Lake Placid was like during those two weeks. I remember the images from ABC of the central part of the town flooded with athletes and spectators, feeling like a comfy winter party. I didn’t realize just how cozy things were until reading this.