Maybe the designation was cheesy. Maybe it was a cheap grasp for a unifying phrase to help find some desperate angle. But just like the black jerseys in 2007, Richt's idea worked. After all was said and done, Georgia had signed its best class ever under Richt.
The instate kids truly did complete a ‘Dream Team.' And that got me to thinking…what about the original ‘Dream Team?' You know, the 1992 Olympic basketball team. Most consider that team to be the greatest collection of talent of all time. How can I ramble and compare and contrast to drag out a long Mail Bag-esque column?
(Rubbing hands together and nodding furiously).
Let's compare one player from the '92 Dream Team to Georgia's 2011 signing class. The only rule: The recruit must be from the state of Georgia, so players like Christian LeMay and Kent Turene will have to be excluded.
With all that said, let's get it poppin'.
Michael Jordan – Isaiah Crowell
The original ‘Dream Team' was the greatest assembled cast of basketball players of all time. But there would have been a proverbial asterisk if the greatest player of all time weren't a member. Jordan was at the height of his superstardom in ‘92, fresh off the Bulls second championship. While the team would have been great without him and still would have won the gold medal in Barcelona, Jordan's presence pushed this team to other worlds in terms of perception.
I know, I know, all of you guys were proud of the class Richt and staff had assembled prior to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. But let's just pretend Crowell pulled an Alabama hat out of his bag, just for a moment. What if he had a baby elephant brought up on stage instead of that puppy Bulldog?
That's right, there would have been an incomplete feeling in the bottom of your stomach.
Crowell was the best player in the state in the 2011 class. He was the "we've got to have this guy because he can make a difference right away" recruit. With Crowell, Georgia not only secured the best class ever under Richt; the Bulldogs added the best player in the best class ever under Richt.
Magic Johnson – Nick Marshall
There wasn't much on the basketball court Magic Johnson couldn't do. The same can be said for Nick Marshall—on both the basketball court and football field.
Magic was, first and foremost, a point guard. Marshall is, first and foremost, a quarterback.
Remember though, Magic was a 6-foot-9, 250-pound point guard. The world had never seen something quite like him. Take the 1980 Finals for instance: The Lakers took a 3-2 lead into Game 6 against Philadelphia. Starting center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar severely sprained his ankle in Game 5 and couldn't go for the rest of the series.
So, Magic casually slid down to start at center, dropped 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals to clinch the series. Oh by the way, this was all in Magic's rookie season.
In Nick's case, Georgia already had a quarterback (LeMay) in the 2011 class by the time Marshall was ready to make up his mind. So, he casually slid over to the defensive side of the ball, saying he would gladly play cornerback as long as he could suit up for Georgia.
Johnson also played shooting guard and small forward when circumstances dictated the need. Marshall can play wide receiver and return punts and kicks at Georgia if needed. And don't be surprised if you see him lined up at quarterback, either.
Currently, Magic is actively working on bringing a professional football team to the Los Angelos area, proving his crossover ability. Marshall will play both football and basketball at Georgia, proving his crossover ability.
Thankfully, I made it through this whole comparison without mentioning AIDS.
Charles Barkley – Watts Dantzler
Do you remember when Charles Barkley teamed with golfing swing coach Hank Haney on the show, ‘The Haney Project?'
Barkley's swing was more awkward than a middle school dance, sans the spiked punch.
Now, envision big Watts Dantzler—all 6-foot-7, 310 pounds of him—playing high school tennis. Because that's what he did last spring. He even won matches, nudging his ego to propose a contest against Mr. Dean Legge (who played tennis in college).
Sadly, that matchup never took place. The Minion here was going to videotape the whole gig for your viewing pleasure.
Anyway, Barkley is a bit of an eccentric, who isn't afraid to speak his mind about any topics. He's ruffled feathers with his views on race, religion, politics, drinking and driving and just about every other thing one could take a side on.
Dantzler was busy this past month blowing the lid off silent commits on Twitter, sending the Dawg Post message boards scurrying like Midwesterners this past week in a grocery store. Watts is certainly is different kind of dude, who routinely stretches for a joke or acts weird in a serious setting.
Furthering this comparison into an actual athletic realm, Barkley was slightly overweight when he played at Auburn and the first few years in the NBA. Hell, his nickname was "The Bread Truck," and for a good reason.
Dantzler also took some time to fully develop. He was sloppy up until about a year ago. He's currently employed a diet to try to perfect his body before he enrolls at Georgia in June. His new eating habits have produced tweets like this: "Chicken breast…NOMNOMNOM!."
Yeah, something like that.
Sometimes lost in all the craziness is the fact that both Barkley and Dantzler are talented athletes. Little known (or believed) fact: Barkley led the Dream Team in scoring during the Barcelona Olympics. Dantzler, who at times has taken flack for his perceived immaturity, has the chance to become a great offensive tackle if he puts everything together.
Larry Bird – Amarlo Herrera
Obviously, Larry Bird is a legend. After all, he was called, "Larry Legend," while he was still playing. He was a unique competitor and an excellent shooter.
And through it all, he was a perfectionist in the art of trash talk. Here are a few instances that history has recorded (I'd love to hear more of Bird's quips, but these are the most famous known examples):
During All-Star weekend in 1986, Bird was competing in the first-ever 3-point shooting contest. He entered the locker room shortly before and said: ""I want all of you to know I am winning this thing. I'm just looking around to see who's gonna finish up second." Of course, Bird won.
Also: In a Christmas Day game one year against the Pacers, Bird told Chuck Person he had a Christmas present for him. During the game, while Person was resting on the bench, Bird drained a 3-pointer right in front of him. Before the ball even stripped the net—just after it left Bird's hand—he said to Person: "Merry F****** Christmas."
Herrera likes to talk, too. I got to watch him compete at three camps last summer, and while he was discrete about his talking, I noticed he was prone to leaning in to get his opinions out in the open. I like that. I'm a fan of sneaky trash talk. I don't particular care for overt, rampant blabber, but a few remarks here and there are fun.
Also, Bird could perform a select group of skills on the court at a supreme level. He could shoot exceptionally well. He was a smart rebounder and a sneaky passer. So, maybe he didn't play the best defense, but he still averaged nearly two steals a game in his career. Bird was above average on defense, but he didn't have the athleticism to be considered a "suburb" defender. He couldn't guard one-on-one all that well, but he was excellent within a "team" defense because of his high basketball IQ.
The current knock on Herrera is his inability to play in pass coverage. It has nothing to do with a lack of athleticism. That's not the case. He's just not that good matched up in one-on-one situation. But he more than makes up for that with his knack for being in the right place at the right time for tackles, his nasty streak and ability to get moving downhill so quickly. Within the team concept, with a defensive line freeing up a guy like Amarlo to make plays, he'll thrive like Bird did.
And he'll probably let opponents know about it like Bird, too.
Chris Mullin – Chris Conley
Quick, name the 12 members of the 1992 ‘Dream Team.' And stop. Did you mention Chris Mullin? Did you even think of Chris Mullin? Did you name all the other headliners first? Don't lie. That's what I thought. And that's OK. Everybody glosses over Mullin
He was the Big East Player of the Year three times at St. John's, a five-time NBA All-Star and he had five consecutive 25-points per game seasons from 1988-93.
Unfortunately, Mullin played in an era with bigger names. His personality (born and raised in Brooklyn) was low key and workmanlike. He never really created a controversial stir (like Barkley), commanded the spotlight (like Magic), thoroughly dominated opponents (like Jordan), created a following (like Bird) or led a gang of bad boys (like Thomas).
In some regard, Conley has been lost in the mix, too. He didn't embrace the "I'm a sought-after football recruit, so I deserve attention and to be treated differently" mentality. He quietly weighed his options last spring, chose Georgia and wrote a letter to all schools recruiting him detailing his decision. And that was that.
Now, Conley is an under-the-radar player who is already enrolled at Georgia. He's 6-foot-3, 180-pounds, and will have the chance to come in and makes plays early.
Thankfully, I made it through this comparison without mentioning alcoholism (Mullin was a heavy drinker in college and his first few years in the league).
All those pick-and-rolls Stockton and Malone ran for the Jazz in the 90s started with the ball in one place to begin with: Stockton's hands. Sure, he was undersized. Sure, he didn't look like an NBA player. And he wore the shortest shorts this side of a bunch of high school girls in a tanning bed.
Just like Stockton, Andrews is a few inches shorter than some at his position. But every play will begin with the ball in his hands at center. He'll be responsible for making calls for the line. And he's got leadership qualities that most recruits don't possess.
Stockton wasn't flashy. He didn't grab attention for the wrong reasons. All he did was do work and win games.
That's all Andrews wants, too. There's something to that.
To this day, Karl Malone is physically breathtaking. And no, it's not because of his new endorsement with Shape-ups shoes.
He was a 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward without an ounce of fat on his body. And he was strong—like man strong.
Ray Drew is physically impressive, already 6-foot-5, 254-pounds.
Malone was called the, "Mailman." Drew is called the, "Reverend." These are two equally important services in the community—postal and soul service.
Malone thrived because he landed in the right position, within the right scheme, amid the right variables at the perfect time. I'm sure I missed a comma or something in that last sentence. Whatever, grammar Nazis. Anway, Malone and Stockton ran the pick-and-roll to perfection for nearly 15 seasons, as the Jazz reached the Finals twice and Malone won the MVP Award in 1997 and 1999.
Now Drew, who played defensive end in college, will play the weakside linebacker position for Georgia. You know, the same spot Justin Houston dominated from this past season. So Drew could be in the right position in the right scheme (Grantham's 3-4). There will be variables (Jenkins and Jones) that could help Drew soar to the height of success Malone enjoyed.
Thankfully, I made it through this comparison without a reference to sexual harassment (Malone allegedly made inappropriate comments to Kobe Bryant's wife in 2004).
Clyde Drexler – Corey Moore
Let me try to sum up Clyde Drexler in one sentence: He was known for his smooth approach, athleticism and toughness on the court, while also being an easy going kind of guy away from the action.
That pretty much sums up Corey Moore, too.
Drexler was just a cool customer. He could score with ease and also throw the hammer down with some thunderous dunks. He also did the dirty work most guards wouldn't think of doing. He still ranks third all-time in rebounds and blocks by a guard. Drexler frequently posted a full stat sheet, carrying Portland to the Finals twice.
When I first met Moore in the February of 2010, he was already committed to Georgia. He didn't talk much, but he was polite and laid back.
Watching him play football, he liked to do the dirty work, too. Although Moore is a safety, he would often play at the line-of-scrimmage, almost like an outside linebacker. He wasn't afraid to take on blockers to help another teammate eventually secure a tackle. Hey, that's not always fun. But somebody has to do it.
Both Drexler and Moore were/are versatile guys who are as cool as they come.
Scottie Pippen was the perfect defender. He had long arms, a 6-foot-8 frame and a defensive mindset. He was named to the All-Defensive First Team eight times in his career.
But he could score, too. Don't sleep on Scotty's scoring ability. Just because his teammate was Michael Jordan, who scored the bulk of the points, doesn't mean you can sleep on Pippen's offensive abilities.
He averaged more than 18 points per game in seven seasons, scoring over 22 points per game in the 1994 season (when Jordan was trying his best to imitate a baseball player).
So, Pippen was a true two-way player…and so is Malcolm Mitchell. Many have wondered and debated where Mitchell should play on the next level. He's listed as a cornerback on both Scout and Rivals. And he has the potential to be a great corner on the next level. I'm told Todd Grantham loves Mitchell's length, because he'd be able to jam receivers at the line-of-scrimmage with his long arms.
But Mitchell told me Monday he plans to start out at receiver. It's that ability to play on both sides, or ends, that draws the Pippen comparison.
I know you're scratching your head right now. Patrick Ewing was a 7-foot monster. Damian Swann might be 6-foot-1. He might be. Ewing weighed 240 pounds. Swann might be 175. He might be.
Ewing was an imposing force at both Georgetown and for the New York Knicks, using size and strength to muscle his way to the basket. Swann is an electric corner/receiver, using speed and finesse to score touchdowns and force turnovers.
So where is the comparison?
When the NBA established the draft lottery in 1985, everybody knew Ewing would be the first pick. But the lottery created a chance for every losing team to have a shot at the top selection.
And the Knicks needed him desperately. New York is said to be the, "Mecca of basketball.' But in the years leading up to '85, the Knicks were amid dark days. Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Dave DeBusschere led the team to titles in 1970 and '73.
Following the great play of the early 70s, the team went through a spell of up-and-down seasons, making the playoffs from time-to-time. It was clear the Knicks needed something to stabilize the franchise. They needed a cornerstone guy to help make them a viable contender year in and year out.
You know the rest…the Knicks won the lottery, got the first pick and selected Ewing. While the big man set almost every franchise record and led the team to the Finals once, the Knicks still haven't won a title.
So, how does this relate to Swann.
Well, Georgia was fresh off a 6-7 season and a humiliating loss in the Liberty Bowl. To make matters worse, Quan Bray and Xzavier Dickson picked other schools over Georgia on national television in early January.
Also, outside of Sanford Seay, the Bulldogs hadn't gotten a public commit since August.
So these were dark days for Georgia.
But on Jan 8, Swann made his decision to play at Georgia during the Army All American Bowl. He said he wanted to, "change the program around." Little did he know, his commitment was the beginning of the change in perception Georgia so desperately needed. He was the first domino to fall of the remaining elite kids in the state of Georgia. Mitchell, Rome, Drew and Crowell were to follow. But it all started with Georgia winning the lottery, so to speak, with Swann.
I was a huge fan of NBA Jam on Super Nintendo back in the day. Let me tell you: David Robinson was a beast on that game. He had the best dunks, the best rebounding—he was just awesome to play with.
What I didn't realize as a child was that Robinson was far more than a basketball player. He scored a 1320 on the old SAT in high school. He played ball at Navy (under Pete Herrmann) and was drafted with the first overall pick in the 1987 draft. Before he began his professional career, he actually served two years in the Navy. Think about that. Supposedly, he didn't even ask for a pass. He did his time and then moved on to the league. That's impressive.
Rome is also a beast. He's a 6-foot-6, 240-pound tight end that ran a 4.68 40-yard dash. So he'd be an impressive player on an NFL Blitz video game or something like that. Know this: Jay Rome is going to play in the NFL one day. I know that's not necessarily a bold statement. But I just want to let you know.
Anyway, Rome also sports a 4.0 grade point average. So he, like Robinson, is the perfect mix of physical and mental prowess.
Robinson played much of his career as the centerpiece for the Spurs. He won the MVP in 1995, but it wasn't until Tim Duncan (another big post player) joined the team in the late 90s that the Spurs won championships. Robinson finished his career with two rings (1999 and 2003).
Could Orson Charles and Jay Rome be the next Tim Duncan and David Robinson?
Christian Laettner was a great college basketball player, as much as that pains me to say. Xzavier Ward was a good high school player, fighting through an injury this year to produce some good results.
I really have no issue with either being a member of their respective ‘Dream Team.' But there were other options in each case (again, we don't always know the full "behind the scenes" details).
In hindsight, Shaquille O'Neal (you'll read more on him later) was the obvious choice to make the Dream Team over Laettner. But, I can't fault the selection committee for taking Laettner instead.
He was named the 1992 College Player of the Year by everybody and their brother. He set numerous records while at Duke. And he hit the most memorable shot in NCAA history. You know, the turnaround jumper from the free-throw line to beat Kentucky at the buzzer. So he had the cred to be there.
But looking back, Shaq was the guy that should have been taken. He was a monster at LSU, setting the NCAA record for most blocked shots in a career in only three seasons. He was on the verge of being taken as the first pick in the NBA draft. And he actually could have helped the Dream Team (Laettner averaged 4.5 ppg). Shaq went on to dominate the NBA for years to come, as Laettner bounced around a couple of teams and was just a decent player.
Ward was a bit of a surprise in this class. He was recruited heavily last spring, but schools backed off for one reason or another. When he finally committed in late January, he pledged to the Bulldogs in somewhat of a surprise move. At the time, there were two or three other linemen Georgia was looking at trying to land at the last minute (Spencer Region, Taylor Gadbois).
Isiah Thomas – Xzavier Dickson
Let the conspiracy theorists begin to fan the flames…somehow or another Isiah Thomas was left off the '92 Dream Team…and somehow Dickson ended up choosing Alabama over Georiga.
How is this possible? Did Jordan give an ultimatum, saying he wouldn't play with Thomas? Did Dickson's father force his son to pick Alabama? If so, why?
We'll most likely never know the answer to these questions.
Thomas and Jordan had negative feelings toward each other dating back to the mid-80s. And most of the Bulldog Nation believes Nick Saban and Alabama partake in shady recruiting practices.
For whatever reason, Thomas was not included on the Dream Team. He was a two-time NBA champion, 12-time All-Star and the 1990 Finals MVP. He should have been on the ‘Dream Team.'
Dickson would have been a perfect fit at outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. He could have been on the ‘Dream Team.' Georgia wanted him something fierce.
The reason these two weren't apart of each "dream," will long be discussed…but will probably never be fully understood.
Dominique Wilkins – Quan Bray
Wilkins was certainly a talented offensive player. So is Bray.
But the truth is, Jordan was a better guard. Clearly. Also: Drexler was a more complete guard. Pippin was better defensively. Stockton was a needed facilitator. Mullin was a better spot-up shooter. Essentially, Wilkins would have been a good choice, but there were better options.
Bray would have fit right in with this class. He could have played running back or slot receiver and been a welcome addition. But with Isaiah Crowell and Malcolm Mitchell in the fold on offense, missing on Bray doesn't hurt nearly as much. Essentially, Bray would have been a good choice, but there were better options (I understand football recruiting is different, because there are more spots available—don't ruin this comparison for me. Don't do it).
Akeem Olajuwon – Dexter Staley
Olajuwon wanted to be a member of the 1992 Dream Team. He should have been. He would have been. There was only one problem: He wasn't a United States citizen yet.
Originally from Nigeria, Olajuwon traveled to the States in the early 80s to play basketball at the University of Houston. He went on to be the No. 1 pick in the 1984 draft (ahead of Jordan) and would eventually win two championships with the Houston Rockets.
But he didn't become a citizen until 1993, after the Dream Team won gold in Barcelona.
Dexter Staley couldn't be a member of the 2011 Dream Team for a couple of reasons: First, he's from Williston, S.C., so he's not a Georgia citizen yet. Second, he never took the SAT or ACT. That's a problem.
Staley, a linebacker, now plans to enroll at Georgia Military College and will be recruited all over again next season. There is a good chance Georgia will go after him because the Bulldogs wanted him in this class.
After Olajuwon became a citizen, he won a gold medal with Team USA in the 1996 Olympics.
Could Staley be on a similar course?
Shaquille O'Neal – C.J. Uzomah
Let's see here…there's a quarterback/tight end/athlete recruit out of the state of Georgia…the Bulldogs like him at tight end, but he eventually ends up at Auburn. Sound familiar? Well, I'm not talking about Cam Newton here. I'm talking about Uzomah, who will most likely play tight end for the Tigers. But the comparison is uncanny.
Basically, Georgia liked Jay Rome more at tight end and didn't think Uzomah could play quarterback. So Richt passed on him.
Somehow, Shaq was left off the 1992 ‘Dream Team,' too. Duke's Christian Laettner was chosen over him, but that decision left many shaking their heads. Shaq went on to NBA greatness, winning four titles. Laettner was a great college player, but never panned out on the next level. He will forever scar the 1992 Dream Team photo. He just didn't belong. Looking back, Shaq would have been an exponentially better—and bigger—fit.
Let's hope Georgia doesn't feel the same way a few years down the road.
Anyway, the 1992 'Dream Team' cruised to the gold medal in Barcelona. The team was never really challenged, winning each game by an average of 472 points. OK, so I exaggerated the winning margin, but it's pretty damn close to the way those games looked.
The success proved that 'Dream Team' to be full of winning reality. The next four or five years will give us the chance to judge Georgia's version.
Turn out the lights boys, the party's over. Thank ya'll for coming.