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NBA

The Last Dance: Who was on the Dream Team and the best players who didn't make the cut

Episode 5 of 'The Last Dance' will include a closer look into the 1992 USA Olympic men's basketball team also known as the Dream Team.

Considered by most to be the greatest collection of talent ever assembled, the Dream Team won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. The team went 8-0, beating opponents by an average of 43.8 points and winning every game by at least 30.

MORE: How to watch 'The Last Dance'

The Dream Team ushered in a new era of international basketball as previous FIBA rules prohibited participation of NBA players. The change in rules in April 1989 paved the way for USA Basketball to put together the team which would become a global sensation.

On September 21, 1991 the first 10 players were announced. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were named co-captains and were joined in the intitial 10 by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing.

MORE: MJ dominated Drexler

On May 12, 1992 the final two spots were awarded to Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner, who received the one spot reserved for a collegiate player.

Player Position Age Team
Charles Barkley F 29 Phoenix Suns
Larry Bird F 35 Boston Celtics
Clyde Drexler G 30 Portland Trail Blazers
Patrick Ewing C 30 New York Knicks
Magic Johnson G 32 Los Angeles Lakers
Michael Jordan G 29 Chicago Bulls
Christian Laettner F 22 Duke University
Karl Malone F 29 Utah Jazz
Chris Mullin F 29 Golden State Warriors
Scottie Pippen F 26 Chicago Bulls
David Robinson C 27 San Antonio Spurs
John Stockton G 30 Utah Jazz

With room for only 11 NBA players and one college player, it begs the question: did they get it right?

Here's a closer look at some of the best players that didn't make the cut.

Isiah Thomas

Any conversation about Dream Team snubs begins with the Hall of Fame point guard of the Detroit Pistons.

At the time, Thomas was coming off his 11th straight All-Star appearance, but was embroiled in a bitter rivalry with Jordan and the Bulls stemming from four straight meetings in the playoffs from 1988 to 1991.

A two-time champion still in his prime, there's zero debate that if the team was selected based on merit and nothing else that Thomas should have been there.

Here's the entire list of players that made every All-Star team from 1982 to 1992:

  1. Isiah Thomas

That's it. That's the list. Bird and Johnson - the two co-captains - made 10 of 11 over that stretch and Thomas was also younger than both of them.

There's a case to be made that not only should Thomas have been on the team, he should have been one of the foundational pieces.

Dominique Wilkins

Given the majority of the team was announced prior to the 1991-92 season, it's imperative to look back at the 1990-91 season to accurately gauge the state of the league. And at that time, it's hard to deny Dominque's place as he was coming off an All-NBA Second Team selection and had just averaged over 25 points per game for the seventh straight season.

He was the most prolific scorer in the NBA not named Jordan and although an injury sustained during the 1991-92 season would have prevented him from participating anyways, he easily could have been among that first group of 10 selections.

Rod Thorn - the former Bulls GM who drafted Jordan in Chicago - was a part of the selection committee and has stated that Wilkins was among the players considered.

Kevin Johnson

Johnson finished seventh in MVP voting in the 1990-91 season, the highest finish among any players that did not make the Dream Team. Though just 25 at the time the roster was announced which would have made him the youngest of the NBA players on the roster, Johnson was coming off his third straight season averaging at least 20 points and 10 assists.

MORE: Trivia on 'The Last Dance' episodes three and four

An All-NBA Second Team selection each of the three seasons leading up to the selection of the Dream Team, Johnson had a resume comparabe to that of Stockton who made the cut.

James Worthy

A three-time champion still in his prime and in the midst of seven straight All-Star appearances, Worthy certainly warranted a closer look. At the time, Worthy had a longer list of NBA accomplishments than Pippen who snagged a forward spot and whose inclusion could have been an unstated factor in swaying Jordan's decision to play.

Entering 1991-92 Season
Worthy Pippen
Age 30 26
All-Stars 6 1
All-NBA teams 2 0
Championships 3 1

Shaquille O'Neal

While Christian Laettner won the Wooden Award in 1991-92 as best player in college basketball, it's hard to look back and justify his selection over Shaquille O'Neal.

Not only was O'Neal set to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 draft, the Dream Team also included only two centres in Robinson and Ewing. From a purely positional standpoint, O'Neal's roster fit would have been far cleaner even before getting into the actual comparison with Laettner.

Shaq's presence would have added another interesting wrinkle and unlike Laettner, it's hard to imagine him not playing an important role in the legendary closed door scrimmage.

Afforded the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, O'Neal over Laettner feels like the easiest call to make if awarded a do-over.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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