While ESPN’s “The Last Dance” focused on Michael Jordan and the 1998 Chicago Bulls, the documentary additionally highlighted the 1992 Dream Team, what many consider the greatest collection of talent ever put together.
Michael Jordan had established himself as the best player in the world by that time, but Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who was forced to retire prior to that season, was eager to prove that he was not only still elite, but at the top of the NBA hierarchy.
This led to some extremely intense practices with some of the greatest players in NBA history giving their best. Magic and Jordan were the leaders, but the likes of Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, and Scottie Pippen made for some of the best scrimmages anyone has ever seen.
One in particular stood out to Magic Johnson and he recalled it in the documentary. Magic called the practice the best basketball any of them had ever played, but then he made a grave mistake in trash talking Jordan:
“That was the greatest basketball I think we all were involved in: Great passing, great shooting, great defense. All-NBA players going back-and-forth at each other. … We’re up about eight points or something like that. And I went over and tapped him and I said, ‘Look man, if you don’t turn into Air Jordan, we’re going to blow you out.’
One of the things Jordan is most known for is his fierce competitiveness and desire to win at all costs. Immediately following Magic’s comments, Jordan completely took over the game:
“Man, what did I say that for? He broke the huddle, hit a three, came back down and hit another three, came through the middle and just shook everybody. Before we know it, they were up two.”
Following this practice Magic admitted that Jordan was truly the best player in the world and for players of that caliber, it is always difficult to admit that someone is better. This is something that goes on in any era as it you can be sure the likes of LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant all believe there is nobody better than them.
Over the years these Dream Team practices have become legendary for their intensity and the sheer amount of talent involved. But when push came to shove it was Jordan who rose above to the point that even Magic had to admit defeat.