President Barack Obama got an early look at the U.S. men’s national basketball team’s prospects for London, a squad he said would have a tough time against the original Dream Team no matter what Kobe Bryant says.
He and Vice President Joe Biden were in the audience tonight as the U.S. team, made up of National Basketball Association stars, defeated Brazil, 80-69, in an exhibition game at the Verizon Center in Washington.
In an interview with ESPN at halftime, Obama said he would pick the 1992 Olympic team to defeat the current batch of NBA stars. Of Bryant, the president said, “You expect him to do a little trash-talking whenever the case arises.”
Bryant, the 33-year-old Los Angeles Lakers guard who is the team’s oldest player, said during training camp that this year’s team “is a bunch of racehorses who are incredibly athletic,” while the 1992 squad “consisted mainly of players at the tail end of their careers.”
Obama said he is confident this year’s team will win the gold medal at the Olympics. “The talent we’ve got is unbelievable.”
In the game against Brazil tonight, the USA team trailed early before recovering.
Obama, who spent part of the day campaigning in Ohio, arrived after the women’s game, as the U.S. team defeated Brazil 99-67 in the first contest of a double-header at the arena.
“You guys don’t even look tired,” Obama said earlier as he greeted members of the women’s squad. “You are great representatives of the nation. We could not be prouder.”
A smiling Obama posed with the women for a photo and was presented with a red USA jersey with number 1 on it. The president, dressed in blue jeans and a blue windbreaker, was greeted with a loud ovation from the sellout crowd as he and Biden took their seats for the men’s game.
The 12-man U.S. men’s team returns five players from the group that won a gold medal in Beijing four years ago, including New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Miami Heat forward LeBron James and Bryant.
This is the team’s second exhibition leading up to its first Olympic game on July 29 against France. The team beat the Dominican Republic 113-59 on July 12 and has three more exhibitions scheduled in Europe.
While Obama won’t be at those games, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who ran the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, is scheduled to be in London for the opening ceremonies
The U.S. men’s team has won a gold medal in four of the five Olympics since the 1992 games in Barcelona, when it first began using active NBA players.
The 1992 Dream Team featured 11 future Hall of Fame inductees, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and outscored opponents by an average of 43.8 points. The U.S. team won a bronze medal at the 2004 games in Greece.
The U.S. women’s team has earned the gold medal four consecutive Olympic games and six of the last seven. This year’s team includes former Women’s National Basketball Association MVPs Candace Parker and Diana Taurasi.
To contact the reporters on this story: Matt Bok in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Eben Novy-Williams in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at firstname.lastname@example.org