The Dream Will Never Die:
An Oral History of the Dream Team

Magic. Bird. Jordan. Barkley. Ewing. Legends at every position on the floor. Hall of Famers filling the bench. They were the greatest team ever assembled—in any sport—and twenty years ago in Barcelona, they put on a show the world will never forget. GQ contributor Lang Whitaker spent months assembling this one, and it reads like lightning. (Also, stay tuned this week to lots of outtakes to come.) So many great bits from the oral history to choose from, but this portion, about the legendary first scrimmage between the Dream Team and a squad of college all-stars, is a personal favorite:

Allan Houston (college squad player): We were asked to play a style that they hadn’t really seen a lot of yet. We figured we had nothing to lose. So we go in there, and Penny gets a couple dunks. I remember hitting a couple of shots. Everybody’s kind of flowing.

Penny Hardaway (college squad player): They just thought, “Okay, they got these young guys to give us a little warm-up. We’re going to beat them up a little bit, sign a couple autographs, and then everybody go on about their merry way.” They didn’t know how talented we really were.

Brian McIntyre (NBA vice president of public relations): Penny had a couple of steals at midcourt, and everyone was going, “Whoa.” There was—I can still feel it—there was tension. First day!

Charles Barkley: The first time we saw them, they looked like babies. We were like, “Hey, man, let’s don’t kill these little kids.” And they were playing like it was Game 7. Before we knew it, they upset us.

Houston: The clock ran out—we had a twenty-minute clock—and we were up. And everybody looked around sheepishly, like, This is not supposed to happen. Nobody said anything for a few minutes.

Karl Malone: We took them for granted, and they kicked our butt. And Coach Daly just had that look on his face like, “Well, this is what we told you guys. You gotta be ready.” After that, we was chomping at the bit to play them again that same day, but he didn’t let us. He let us stew on it a little bit.

Chris Webber (college squad player): When we busted their ass, they didn’t say any prima donna stuff—”We let you win.” That night was special. I remember me and Bobby Hurley decimating the golf course on some golf carts because we were so excited.

Houston: Back at the hotel, I was on the same elevator as Bird and C-Webb, and C-Webb was chirping. Bird got off the elevator and said, “Don’t worry, tomorrow’s a new day.” He kind of left us with that thought. And yeah, we got back in there, and it was a new day. [laughs]

Barkley: We sent them a little message.

Webber: We didn’t score a point. Not one point. Not a point on a free throw, not a point in the game. We were the perfect wake-up call for them, and they were the perfect reality check for us.

McIntyre: When the buzzer sounded, Barkley walks over to the other bench and says, “You guys are just lucky we didn’t come out with an attitude today.” Just cracked me up.

New Tiger, Old Stripes

GQ’s Dan Riley, passionately, elegantly, systematically dismantling of the Tiger Woods comeback myth, now in full flower at The Masters, which begins today:

Why [is] Tiger winning so important to us, anyway? If we accept the whole mirage as we once did, doesn’t that make us suckers? What’s dishonest about Tiger now is not that he’s looking us in the eye and lying; it’s that he’s asking us to remain complicit in that grand lie of infallibility long after it’s been publicly obliterated. Golf is better with Tiger around. And in order to preserve his presence in its most electrifying form, it’s tempting to buy what he seems to insist: that he has organically improved, as both person and player, because of what he’s been through.

For the duration of his professional career, Tiger accepted our attention, investment, adulation, and trust in a manner that suggested he felt he deserved them. He had, after all, done more than anyone ever to change golf. He had grown our interest in the game by a double-digit exponent, and he had done nothing for years to subvert the untethered heights to which his achievements and global image could soar. (His father, infamously, said that Tiger could do more for humanity than anyone in the history of the world.) We accepted his inhuman qualities as mechanical by-products, behavior we’d put up with in exchange for the robotic precision. When our idea of Tiger Woods was exposed as vaporous, we felt conflicted—or at least this fan did—about Tiger’s future success: Did we want him to win again in spite of the duplicity, or to lose as payment for it?

When he ultimately returned, what I think we wanted was a sense that he felt fortunate to be back out there. Blessed, maybe. That even though he had not cheated in competition, it was not his implicit right to be paid millions to indulge in retirement pleasures. That as compared with the rancorous storm of his personal life, the golf course was a reprieve, a place he could love to be. Instead, Tiger seemed to act more entitled upon his return than he had even during his ascendance.

The Year Of Magical Stinking:
An Oral History of Tebow Time

Not even Jesus can save his passing game, and yet Tim Tebow somehow dominated the league last season, captivating Denver and much of this God-fearing nation with his messianic confidence and fourth-quarter miracle work. GQ contributor and Yahoo! Sports NFL columnist Michael Silver talks to the kid’s coaches, teammates, and opponents and asks them: How did he do that, and will it ever happen again? The full read is here—our favorite bits below.

Jared Allen, Minnesota Viking: You know what the coolest part about the whole thing is? And the reason people hate it? Because it’s showing that the conventional wisdom of coaches isn’t really necessary. You know, coaches always think they have the winning theory: “Our way is the right way! Blah blah blah!” Well, here’s a dude that they basically had to scrap the whole offense for and go back to running a college [system]. And they have been successful with it. Sometimes people think the game is more difficult than it is. If you find something that works, go with it. And I don’t really think it has to be a nine-syllable frickin’ play.

Brady Quinn, Denver Broncos: If you look at it as a whole, there’s a lot of things that just don’t seem very humble to me. When I get that opportunity, I’ll continue to lead not necessarily by trying to get in front of the camera and praying but by praying with my teammates, you know?

Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens: I mean, it’s an insult to us players. You know, wins are hard to come by in this league, and if I was Denver’s defense, I would feel a certain way—they’re not allowed to [say it], ‘cause they’re all on one team, but people are making it look like Tim Tebow is the kid from Foxboro—which, that couldn’t be more opposite. It’s just crazy that we’re calling him a phenomenon when basically he’s mediocre. Cam Newton’s a way better quarterback than Tim Tebow, and we don’t have a Cam Newton phenomenon.

GQ’s MVP of the Year: Derrick Rose

We got one of our favorite sportswriters, Will Leitch, to make the case for the Chicago Bulls’ explosive point guard and hoop-god-for-the-coming-decade.

Derrick Rose was always going to win an NBA MVP award. But that it happened this year, at the age of just 22, is ridiculous. Dirk Nowitzki led his team to the title, but Derrick Rose was the bust-out star of 2011. Nobody pretends to be Dirk on the playground. Everybody pretends to be Derrick. Dirk has the jumper. Derrick has the drive, the stop-and-pop, the finger roll, and our favorite, the twisting-curving-winding sprint to the lane that manages to freeze defenders, not break his spine, and drop home the lay-in. The craziest part? He still feels like he has training wheels on. “Ain’t done nothin’ yet,” he says. “The best is coming.”

[Photograph by Nathaniel Goldberg]

38 Seconds

Picture 6

A terrific Veterans Day piece by US Marine vet Matt Ufford, filled with harrowing memories and aching thoughts about coming home from war, from the new sports website The Classical, which you should all be following if you love great writing about sports. This passage is especially memorable:

From there, we trade text messages. I try to tell him that everything he feels is normal and justified. When he tells me “I’d rather be dead than them men,” I call him. It’s after midnight.


I text him back: “No way. I’d rather live with guilt and bad memories than be dead. Dead folks don’t get drunk  or laid.”

A few minutes later, he calls me back. Steel Curtain was bad fucking news, man. The mech company commander – beloved by his Marines and family – stepped on a double-stacked land mine, and half of his dead body landed on the front of Jack’s tank. But there was a mission to accomplish, and in the Marine Corps, nothing comes before the mission. Jack went into battle with the major’s blood on his tank.

What do you say to that? I tell Jack he stands shoulder to shoulder with Marine heroes, with Dan Daly and Smedley Butler and a host of names that mean nothing to people who weren’t Marines. And I believe it: Jack is rough-edged, impervious to danger, and the only vehicle he ever loved more than his Harley was his tank. He will be forgotten by history, but not by anyone who knows him.

We make plans for a visit, which makes me feel like maybe he’s not going to kill himself. Before we get off the phone, I tell him, “It’s a shitty life, but it beats the hell out of being dead.”

The phone call lasts 33 minutes. I hang up and sob.

(via theclassicaldotorg)

Everything You Know About Moneyball
Is Wrong

As the Brad Pitt movie version arrives in theaters, GQ contributor and Deadspin gumshoe extraordinaire Tommy Craggs explains why Michael Lewis’s bestseller is the most misread sports book in a generation. A sample below. Read the full case here.

Let’s get this out of the way quickly: Moneyball was not a book about nerds and statistics and butterball catchers who do nothing but walk—not really. It was a book about the temporarily misperceived value of nerds and statistics and butterball catchers who do nothing but walk and, above all, about how to profit off that misperception. Which is to say that, at bottom, Moneyball was a book about a charismatic visionary (Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane) who achieved success by exploiting market inefficiencies. This is a conceit known as Every Business Book Ever. The guy sitting next to you on an airplane is reading a book like that. Malcolm Gladwell farts books like that. Moneyball told a simple story and told it wonderfully, but baseball being what it is—a game so thoroughly wrapped in its own bullshit that you’d need a grand jury to find its soul—the book was received as heresy.

Seven Things We Love to Hate
About College Football

GQ contributor and designated black-heart Drew Magary—whose excellent new novel, The Postmortal, is out today and worth your cash—wrote this adorable mash note to the college game for our Sept 2011 issue. Click here to read it in full. Below, a sample.

1. Nick Saban’s straw hat
Yes, Nick Saban engendered plenty of goodwill this off-season with everything he did for the Tuscaloosa community in the wake of all those devastating tornadoes. But seriously, fuck him. Deep down, we all know he’s still the same bloodless vampire nomad who eats kittens. Just look at the way he walks around practice in that asshole-golfer straw hat that makes him look like a southern-fried Third World dictator.

2. Bowl-game halftime shows
Say, that was a great first half! We’ll be back for the second half IN TWELVE HOURS. Let’s just cease all football-related activity for half a day and send each school’s respective marching band out onto the field for an interminable mash-up of “America the Beautiful” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.” You want marching bands? Go rent Drumline. Otherwise, piss off and give me a hasty twelve-minute halftime like the pros do.

Conundrum of the Week:
Why Does America Suck At Tennis?

Take away the Williams sisters, and it’s a barren desert, especially on the mens’ side. GQ’s Daniel Riley spoke with the three most recent American male superstars—John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi—what the hell is going on. Below, a sample of McEnroe’s response. Read the rest here.

John McEnroe: We haven’t done a very good job with this all-or-nothing approach to training young people. I think it can be detrimental to a lot of kids, where they sorta live and breath it too young. In many cases, American kids are burned out early. I benefitted from living quote-unquote a pretty normal life and playing other sports and not focusing on tennis entirely at such a young age. These are the type of things I think we need to be doing more of in the States.

The Classical:
The New-Thing-We’re-Excited-About Of The Day

A new, user-funded Awl-esque website all about sports, brought to you in part by the Free Darko gang and featuring several of GQ’s favorite sportswriters. We will be kicking in coins to help make this happen. If you find the video primer as enticing as we did, please do the same. The fellas are calling it The Classical. Read more here. Follow it here.