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I've been considering the lasting impact of the Dream-Team on professional basketball lately, as I feel that this team did more to expand basketball globally than any other group of individuals. Of course, I'm referring to the one and only Dream-Team that competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Specifically, I've been considering how their participation in the Barcelona Olympics created a global migration of international basketball players to the U.S. to compete in the NBA.

Let me begin by framing the global landscape at the time of those Olympics. A year prior to the Barcelona games, the Soviet Union finally crumbled. With the fall of communism, the former Eastern-Bloc was open to trade with Western companies, which quickly inserted themselves into this landscape (Nike comes to mind). American sport organizations like the NBA were looking to expand their visibility globally, and draw on another pool of talent for their league. This coincided with Olympic basketball rule changes by FIBA, which finally allowed professional basketball players to compete in the Olympics (which is hypocritical as the Soviet Union had been sending professional basketball players to several Olympics under the guise of being policemen or soldiers). As a result of this rule change, NBA players could compete on the global stage and display the superiority of American basketball.

The U.S. constructed the Dream-Team, which was a compilation of the NBA's best and most globally identifiable superstars who were at the peak of their 'powers' (outside of Bird and Magic). These 12 players, their coaches, families, fans, and the media hype-machine that covered them traveled to Spain to engage in this sport mega-event. Beyond this group of individuals, fans and media members from around the world traveled to Barcelona to experience this mega-event first-hand, and others from around the world watched the Dream-Team compete on this stage. Thus, a transnational basketball society was developed at these Olympics, which set aside national ties to appreciate the talent that was on display. The Americans were dominant, as they won their Olympic games by an average of 43.5 points and cruised to the gold medal. Incidentally, the global basketball community embraced the American superiority in these games. Had young international basketball players resented the Americans for their abilities, they may have sought to develop the credibility of their own professional basketball leagues. As it turns out, the Americans were idolized and these young international basketball players sought to play basketball against the best competition in the world, which was clearly the NBA.

Prior to the 1992 Olympics, only a handful of foreign-born basketball players were competing in the NBA. In 1996/1997 though, this number had jumped to more than 30 international players, and grew further as there were more than 70 foreign-born players in 2003/2004. Thus, there was a clear surge of international basketball talent that was migrating to the U.S. to compete in the NBA. I attribute this global migration of basketball talent directly to the exploits of the Dream-Team in the Barcelona Olympics and their representation of American basketball superiority. When considering the global migration of Eastern-European players, the iconic superstar status of the Dream-Team and their visibility as highly wealthy and successful athletes may have created a sense that one could escape poverty in these countries by "making it" in the NBA. This is a similar narrative to that of many young African-Americans, who hoped basketball and the NBA could offer them a method to escape poverty (however, this was not the case as many young athletes were/are incapable of making it to the NBA).

In closing, I'd like the reaffirm the global legacy the Dream-Team left on professional basketball. Due to their triumphs in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and their visibility as wealthy athletes, foreign-born basketball players from around the world sought to migrate to the U.S. and compete in the NBA. Thus, the Dream-Team was a catalyst for the global migration of basketball talent, and changed the NBA (and professional basketball) forever.

I want to thank anyone who's read my post to this point. I appreciate the read. I'm a graduate student who's taking a sociology of sport class, and I felt the Dream-Team and their lasting impact on professional basketball (specifically the global migration of basketball talent to the U.S.) warranted an analysis.
 

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hmm, that's a lot of words, the dream team certainly had an impact on international ball but the nba was already farming talent from abroad and the dream team itself was just one strand of what was already developing into a fairly vast web of international marketing and scouting strategies pursued both by the league and individual teams, there were already international scouts, foreign players were being drafted already, foreign 'amatuer' teams were already beating us at the olympics etc so Im not sure how to measure the whole 'doing more to expand the game internationally' thing - how about we settle for a 'maybe'? {shrug} 'probably'?
 
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