PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Thirty years ago — June 27, 1992 — Portland introduced the world to the greatest basketball team in history. The Dream Team.
The Dream Team, featuring Blazer great Clyde Drexler, re-established the United States as the world’s dominant basketball power. The entire team arrived at Portland International Airport on a mission to dominate the rest of the world.
“It was a great opportunity,” Drexler told KOIN 6 News recently. “We had so much fun and so much success that that team will never be forgotten.”
The names of the Dream Team are still so familiar: Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Patrick Ewing and college player Christian Laettner, with Coach Chuck Daly.
Portland was the host city for the Tournament of the Americas, held at Memorial Coliseum. It was the qualifying tournament for the Barcelona Summer Olympics and included teams from Cuba, Argentina and Puerto Rico.
Watch: Clyde Drexler one-on-one with Ken Boddie
Team USA easily beat every opponent in Portland to win the tournament. Then it was on to the Olympics in Barcelona.
“And the culminating result was a gold medal for the United States, which was tremendous,” Drexler said.
It was the first time professionals played for the United States in the Olympics. Four years earlier, college players only managed a bronze medal.
But in 1992, the Dream Team drilled all their opponents by an average of 44 points a game.
“That team changed basketball around the world,” Drexler said. “But it is kind of — eveyone knew what the real deal was. The best players are in the NBA. Everyone knew that. But that solidified that statement around the world in a big way.”
The 1992 Tournament of the Americas also made Portland the center of the basketball world. The Blazers had just been in the NBA finals, losing to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
The NBA draft was held in Portland — and Shaquille O’Neal was the overall #1 pick.
“It was the mecca of the world. Small town Portland, Oregon. We were in a small market, had the attention of the world focusing on our city,” Drexler said. “That reached millions of people around the world. So we were Portland proud. We were Oregon proud.”
The entire Dream Team was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, which makes Clyde Drexler a two-time Hall of Famer. He was also inducted as an individual player.
“All of that, it was a magical time,” he said, “a magical moment in time.”