Magic. Bird. Jordan. Barkley. Ewing. Legends at every position on the floor. Hall of Famers filling the bench. They were the greatest team ever assembled—in any sport—and twenty years ago in Barcelona, they put on a show the world will never forget. GQ contributor Lang Whitaker spent months assembling this one, and it reads like lightning. (Also, stay tuned this week to GQ.com: lots of outtakes to come.) So many great bits from the oral history to choose from, but this portion, about the legendary first scrimmage between the Dream Team and a squad of college all-stars, is a personal favorite:
Allan Houston (college squad player): We were asked to play a style that they hadn’t really seen a lot of yet. We figured we had nothing to lose. So we go in there, and Penny gets a couple dunks. I remember hitting a couple of shots. Everybody’s kind of flowing.
Penny Hardaway (college squad player): They just thought, “Okay, they got these young guys to give us a little warm-up. We’re going to beat them up a little bit, sign a couple autographs, and then everybody go on about their merry way.” They didn’t know how talented we really were.
Brian McIntyre (NBA vice president of public relations): Penny had a couple of steals at midcourt, and everyone was going, “Whoa.” There was—I can still feel it—there was tension. First day!
Charles Barkley: The first time we saw them, they looked like babies. We were like, “Hey, man, let’s don’t kill these little kids.” And they were playing like it was Game 7. Before we knew it, they upset us.
Houston: The clock ran out—we had a twenty-minute clock—and we were up. And everybody looked around sheepishly, like, This is not supposed to happen. Nobody said anything for a few minutes.
Karl Malone: We took them for granted, and they kicked our butt. And Coach Daly just had that look on his face like, “Well, this is what we told you guys. You gotta be ready.” After that, we was chomping at the bit to play them again that same day, but he didn’t let us. He let us stew on it a little bit.
Chris Webber (college squad player): When we busted their ass, they didn’t say any prima donna stuff—”We let you win.” That night was special. I remember me and Bobby Hurley decimating the golf course on some golf carts because we were so excited.
Houston: Back at the hotel, I was on the same elevator as Bird and C-Webb, and C-Webb was chirping. Bird got off the elevator and said, “Don’t worry, tomorrow’s a new day.” He kind of left us with that thought. And yeah, we got back in there, and it was a new day. [laughs]
Barkley: We sent them a little message.
Webber: We didn’t score a point. Not one point. Not a point on a free throw, not a point in the game. We were the perfect wake-up call for them, and they were the perfect reality check for us.
McIntyre: When the buzzer sounded, Barkley walks over to the other bench and says, “You guys are just lucky we didn’t come out with an attitude today.” Just cracked me up.