With its emphasis on a moment in sports history just prior to my—and I never know how to put this—sports consciousness kicking in, Dream Team is the rare sports book I knew I needed to read. My earliest sports memories are all around 1992—Laettner’s shot, Sanders’ run through the Cowboys, my first Mets game.
As such, I remember the Dream Team being a big deal—we had posters and T-shirts and all—but I didn’t quite realize how big a deal it was for the sport globally. (I was five.)
Perhaps because the chapters are so short and the pace so breezy, McCallum’s book reads more like a survey than an in-depth analysis. There’s a lingering sense that McCallum got caught between two poles here: sticking to the story of the Dream Team specifically and exploring the shifting dynamic of the NBA in the early 1990s—from the league’s 1980s saviors to its 1990s advancers (with one guy specifically in mind). Focusing strictly on the Dream Team would have left out some of McCallum’s better stories about the personalities in here, Barkley especially. Going the other way, though, would have made this a much longer book, and probably a bit more of a slog.
What you get, then, is a pair of brief representative glimpses of each of the players—one focused on ‘92 and the other an “interlude” from McCallum’s 2011 interviews. McCallum knows the players well enough to avoid extrapolating unnecessarily in these short spaces, which is important. He also probably knows more than what he puts in here.
The Dream Team’s dominance is so self-evident, so taken-for-granted, that there isn’t much in the book about what made the team so much fun to watch. There’s John Stockton calling it “basketball poetry,” but there isn’t much showing to back it up. Maybe that’s impossible to do in text. The chapter breaking down the Dream Team scrimmage offers play-by-play and line-by-line trash talk, but it’s still not the same as actually watching the tape.