Twenty-five years ago today, Michael Jordan played in the greatest game he’s ever played in. Those are his words, not ours.
This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. At the Pavelló Olímpic de Badalona, the greatest basketball team ever assembled played eight games during a two-week stretch, putting on a show that was quite literally for the ages.
The Dream Team was larger than life, and during the next two weeks we’ll look back at each of their defining moments across the pond en route to the gold medal.
The game Jordan referenced was the famous scrimmage in Monaco, where the team trained for several days leading up to the Olympics. Though there were other scrimmages and practices in Monaco and at the team’s training camp in La Jolla, California, prior to this one, this final scrimmage on July 22, 1992, is unanimously held in the highest esteem.
When asked by ESPN’s Michael Wilbon several years ago about the competitive nature of that day in Monte Carlo, Jordan's response says it all: “Greatest game I’ve ever played in. All the beautiful things about the game of basketball were illustrated in that one particular game. If you culminate everybody in the Hall of Fame and every game they played in, and you envision a game being played, that’s how that game was played.”
It was essentially an empty gym: no fans, no press, no TV cameras, no written records or official box scores, with the lone video footage coming courtesy of one of head coach Chuck Daly’s video guys with the Pistons. John Stockton and Clyde Drexler were nursing injuries, so that left Daly with a group of 10 that he split into the white and blue teams, led by Jordan and Magic Johnson. Flanking Jordan on the white team were Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing. Joining Johnson on the blue team were Charles Barkley, Chris Mullin, David Robinson and Christian Laettner.
As there are no official stats, it’s hard to provide any real hard-hitting analysis beyond the most surface-level detail.
That being said, Jack McCallum’s book "Dream Team" -- a must-read if you’re into any and all things about this near-mythical team -- contains a play-by-play account of the scrimmage. With that account as our guide, we tallied the scoring, and to absolutely nobody’s surprise Jordan was the game’s leading scorer, with 17 of the white’s 40 points.
Despite trailing 7-0 and being down by as many as nine points, Jordan’s white team prevailed 40-36 thanks in part to a 17-4 run fueled by jumpers, drives and trash talk.
Nobody came close to touching the Dream Team once the Olympics got underway in Barcelona, as each of the USA's eight games was decided by more than 30 points. Yet before these legends took the court for the world to see, this scrimmage in Monte Carlo set the tone for what followed in the coming weeks.