By Adi Joseph, USA TODAY
There's a little debate raging in the world of Olympic basketball: Who wins in a game between the 1992 Dream Team and the 2012 iteration of Team USA?
So far, we've heard the thoughts of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kobe Bryant. But those guys have vested interests. So we figured we'd break it down, position-by-position:
1992: Magic Johnson, John Stockton
2012: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook
Key facts: Johnson had been retired for a full season when the Olympics came around. He's the greatest point guard in NBA history, but he wasn't in his best shape and started only four games. Stockton, another all-time great, barely played as coach Chuck Daly opted for bigger lineups with Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan running the show. Paul and Williams have a years-long rivalry after being drafted fourth and third overall in 2005. Westbrook is one of the most athletic ever to play the position.
Outlook: In a big game, Paul and Williams would handle the point duties with Westbrook playing sparingly on the wing. We'd expect Johnson, never a great defender and not in top shape, to struggle to keep in front of anyone, but he could also use his size. Still, Paul's handled bigger opponents for years and is in his prime.
1992: Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler
2012: Kobe Bryant, James Harden
Key facts: Jordan was the Dream Team's lone full-time starter and its No. 2 scorer. He's the best to play the position and was in his prime in 1992. Drexler was an efficient scorer and an unlikely, efficient point guard on occasion for the Dream Team. Bryant was the intense leader of Team USA in 2008, and he's coming off his best season since 2007-08. Harden's an international rookie.
Outlook: Jordan and Bryant would go head-to-head all game, and we'd see a battle of two of the fiercest competitors in NBA history. But 29-year-old Jordan beats 33-year-old Bryant every day.
1992: Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin
2012: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala
Key facts: Bird was on his last knees in 1992, retiring after the 1991-92 season. The mounting injuries didn't keep him from being a dominant player at times, but he couldn't defend or create at the same level as he did five years prior. Pippen played the glue role for the Dream Team, defending top wing players and leading the team in assists a game, but he was young and lacking polish. Mullin was the sharpshooter. James is the best player in basketball right now, winning three of the past four MVPs and leading the Miami Heat to a championship. Anthony has a flair for international play, particularly as a post scorer. And Iguodala is a jack-of-all-trades defender.
Outlook: Bird would have to find someone he can defend. It wouldn't be James; Pippen would draw that assignment, and the winner of this matchup would hinge on James' performance. Anthony would predominantly play power forward.
1992: Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Christian Laettner
2012: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis
Key facts: Barkley and Malone, two of the best players in NBA history without championship rings, were first and third on the Dream Team in points per game. Laettner was the obligatory college pick. Durant is a natural small forward who has the height and athleticism to play anywhere and stretch defenses. Davis, who will likely replace Blake Griffin, has a length and athleticism combination unmatched by anyone on the Dream Team.
Outlook: Barkley and Malone would win the rebounding battle easily, but Durant, who would likely trade off with James or Anthony defensively, would keep them from dominating. He's the best scorer in the NBA, and, with Pippen on James, the Dream Team would have no ideal matchup for him. But could anyone stop the two strongest players in the game, Barkley and Malone? Both won MVPs in the 1990s for good reason.
1992: Patrick Ewing, David Robinson
2012: Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love
Key facts: Ewing and Robinson are Hall-of-Famers capable of dominating on both ends of the court. Chandler made Team USA as a defensive force, and his selfless offense should help chemistry. Love can pull opponents away from the basket or score inside, and he's the 2012 team's best rebounder.
Outlook: This position isn't even close; the Dream Team pairs two of the best ever against 2012's lesser stars.
1992: Chuck Daly
2012: Mike Krzyzewski
Key facts: Daly won two NBA titles with the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons and is the namesake for the National Basketball Coaches Association's lifetime achievement award. Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in NCAA Division I men's basketball history and has four national championships.
Outlook: The key here is that Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo, the director of USA Basketball, have received commitments from players and built relationships with stars. Daly was assembling an All-Star team.
=====SO, WHO WINS?=====
These teams are evenly matched. Whereas the Dream Team relied on star power, the 2012 iteration is chock-full of role players who can execute specific tasks. It's built more like a team and still may have four of the five best players on the court in James, Durant, Paul and Bryant. (Barkley would have a good argument alongside Jordan on that list.) In a best-of-seven series, we might give the advantage to the younger team. But in a single game, where Bird and Johnson could lay it all on the line, it's tough to imagine anyone beating the Dream Team. The injuries to Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and others hurt the 2012 team, but it's still a collection of players in their primes, unlike a few of the big names on the Dream Team.
We'll never actually answer this debate, but let us know what you think in the comments below.