The 1992 Dream Team would’ve never existed had it not been for a little known Yugoslavian meat inspector named Boris Stankovic.That’s how long time Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum’s “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever” begins.
Stankovic was a veterinarian by trade and worked as a meat and cheese inspector in Belgrade.
He was a huge fan of American basketball and first arrived in the U.S. in 1974.
He didn’t even speak the language, but as a one time player on the Yugoslavian national team and coach of an Italian pro team he yearned to learn more about the American game.
He came to the U.S. on an “intelligence gathering” trip on behalf of FIBA, basketball’s international governing body. At the time, FIBA had even less power and influence than it has today.
The hypocrisy of not allowing American pros to play in the Olympics even though the rest of the world sent its best, a.k.a. “de facto professionals” whose “official” professions were listed as “soldiers” or “policemen,” bothered Stankovic.
“My concern was trying to make the game of basketball strong, to grow it, and yet there was this separation. It became impossible for me to tolerate.”
Stankovic returned to Europe and told his FIBA boss the organisation’s amateurs-only clause needed to be dropped so American super stars could participate in the Olympics and the game could grow on a global scale.
His boss basically ignored Stankovic’s suggestion, mostly because he figured the International Olympic Committee wouldn’t budge. And it didn’t.
To this day, no one really credits Stankovic for first coming up with the idea of sending the NBA’s best to the Olympics, but he was the only one pushing for it for nearly two decades.
Jack McCallum’s “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever” came out Tuesday, July 10, so we’ll be combing through it for interesting tidbits throughout the day.
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