Scottie Pippen Wanted Dominique Wilkins on the Dream Team Over Christian Laettner: ‘I Agreed With Each Pick Except Laettner, I Didn’t Think He Would Fit In, and I Was Right’
In the summer of 1992, the United States sent NBA players to Barcelona to compete in the Olympics for the first time. The roster, which was called the Dream Team, featured Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Christian Laettner, and John Stockton.
Every player from the Dream Team is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame except for Laettner, who didn’t become a superstar in the NBA after being a dominant force in college at Duke. Laettner was the only non-NBA player to make the Dream Team, and that apparently didn’t sit well with Pippen, who wanted to play with Dominique Wilkins.
Scottie Pippen: Dominique Wilkins should have been on Dream Team over Christian Laettner
In his new memoir, Unguarded, Pippen wrote that he wanted Wilkins on the Dream Team over Laettner. Wilkins was coming off an All-NBA second-team season with the Atlanta Hawks when the first 10 players were named to the Dream Team.
“I agreed with each pick except Laettner,” Pippen wrote. “I didn’t think he would fit in, and I was right. The committee should have chosen another NBA player, and plenty were worthy. My preference was Dominique Wilkins.”
Wilkins is often mentioned among the greatest players not to make the Dream Team. Unfortunately, even if he were named to the squad, he wouldn’t have played in the Barcelona Olympics. The Hall of Famer tore his Achilles during the 1991-92 season and didn’t return to the hardwood until November 1992.
Laettner played only 7.6 minutes per game in Barcelona. Even though Pippen didn’t want him on the team, the college basketball legend didn’t have a role on the Dream Team, who destroyed their competition en route to winning the gold medal.
Dream Team cruised to the gold medal
The Dream Team averaged 117.3 points and gave up only 73.5 in the Olympics. Head coach Chuck Daly never called a timeout as the team won their games by an average margin of 44 points.
Pippen averaged 9.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 5.9 assists while shooting 59.6% from the field. The Chicago Bulls legend led the Dream Team in assists and played stellar defense. Meanwhile, Laettner put up 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
Jordan, Pippen, and Magic were the three faces of the Dream Team, which is why Detroit Pistons icon Isiah Thomas wasn’t selected. All three stars didn’t want Zeke on the team, with Pippen writing in his book that the chemistry would have been terrible had Thomas been selected.
Scottie Pippen: With Isiah Thomas on the Dream Team, the chemistry would have been horrible
Jordan, Pippen, and Magic all had beef with Thomas when Rod Thorn put together the Dream Team. Pippen knew Thomas was a good player, but he didn’t want him on the team since he was the leader of the “Bad Boys.”
“Looking at his numbers, it would be difficult to argue Isiah wasn’t deserving,” Pippen wrote. “Putting a basketball team together is about more than numbers. It is about chemistry, and with Isiah on the Dream Team, the chemistry would have been horrible.”
Magic and Thomas have squashed their beef and are friends again. However, Jordan and Pippen still don’t have a relationship with Thomas, and it will likely remain that way forever.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference