When you ask Michael Jordan the greatest game he ever played, it’s not the ‘flu game’ and it’s not even the 1991 NBA finals. It’s the game that Jack McCallum from Sports Illustrated calls ‘the greatest game that nobody ever saw’. It took place before the Summer Olympics of 1992 and the ‘Dream Team’ was practicing in Monte Carlo. It’s ironic that the fans who saw numerous matches never had the opportunity to watch the greatest match ever.
In the ‘Dream Team’ documentary, the question wasn’t even over from the other end and he said, “Best game ever played in.” Those words from the legend clearly state the magnificence of that match. “Best game ever played in a sense that no coaching… And you had ten Hall of Famers playing against each other. I mean how many times are you gonna get that to happen in the game of basketball.”
Well, that was the emphasis given to how great that game was. It was the final practice before Olympics started and coach Chuck Daly wanted a competitive, high-intensity match. He divided them into two teams led by Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. On Jordan’s end, there was, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, and Larry Bird. And on the other hand, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Chris Mullin, and Magic Johnson. God! It would have been fiery for sure!
Jordan described it as the perfectly illustrated game. “And the way we competed and I desired and I sweat and the trash-talking and all the beautiful things about the game of basketball. It was illustrated in that one particular game. If you culminate, everybody, in the Hall of Fame and every game they played in and you envisioned a game being played. That’s how the game is going to be played.”
When the greatest go against each other, nobody is going to be quiet about it. Well yes, they also weren’t. Magic was the ‘Dream Team’ captain that year and Jordan was one of the finest to step into the world of basketball. Moreover, Magic wasn’t ready to give his baton of being the best to Michael and that was pretty evident in the game. He wanted to prove it in that match and Jordan is always up for competition. “It doesn’t take much to get Michael going. Just a little something to tweak him and it’s on,” Chris Mullin was right. That practice match turned into a war on the court like they were winning for a purpose.
There was trash-talking here and there that went on during the match. But Jordan’s team went on to win it at 40-36. Now Michael had to rub it in Magic’s face somehow. Also, there was a competitive vibe even after the match ended. MJ started singing the Gatorade song post the match. Magic mentioned in the documentary, “Larry and I were talking and Michael walks in and he says, ‘There’s a new sheriff in the town’.”
Not something unknown to everybody. Yes, he was the new beast in the game to take over the NBA world. It’s sad that we as fans never got to witness the ‘greatest’ match ever. Coach Daly had said at the beginning of the match, “All you got now. All you got.” Well, they all took that too seriously!