The year: 1992. The place: Monte Carlo. There was a new sheriff in town.
Michael Jordan’s career was highlighted by many iconic moments. His victory over Dominique Wilkins in the 1988 Slam Dunk competition remains a remarkable part of Jordan’s legacy. Who can forget the shot on Craig Ehlo which carried the Bulls to victory in the decisive fifth game of the 1989 first round playoffs series. Finally, the shot to win the 1998 NBA Finals in the sixth game was a poster in ever millennial basketball fan’s room.
Despite this heap of great moments on the biggest stages, Jordan maintains that the best game he ever played in was a game which only a few people outside of the team witnessed.
The 1992 Team USA Men’s Basketball Team was a juggernaut. The squad drew the attention of an international audience while they were in Barcelona. The “Dream Team” was treated as rockstars by fans, bursting from excitement at the opportunity to witness an amazing spectacle that would never be repeated. The existence of such a team changed the way the world looked at basketball forever.
As destiny had it, Jordan’s life was altered profoundly by a game the Dream Team played. While the group faced very little competition from the international teams, they had one particular scrimmage that showed the rest of the NBA superstars that Michael was a talent above all others.
In Monte Carlo, Monaco, in the lead up to the Olympic Games, the Dream Team was split into two teams: on one team, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing wore white. On the other, Magic Johnson, Christian Laettner, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley and David Robinson lined up in blue. Clyde Drexler and John Stockton both sat out as they were nursing injuries. The tables were set for an amazing game in basketball history.
The competition was fierce from the jump. Jordan hit a deep shot which banked in luckily. Magic came down and answered with a three of his own, proclaiming, “Right Back at you.” It was clear that this was not an ordinary scrimmage. This was a battle between MJ and Magic to claim the throne as the greatest player in the world.
Magic would not let his teammates relent. He would encourage them as much as possible to keep the level of competition as high as possible. The players began to trash talk. Jordan’s main theme was that Magic’s time had died with the 1980’s, and that the 90’s were his time to shine.
Though Magic’s team had jumped out to a big lead, Jordan’s team was able to come back with a 17-4 run. After the game, Jordan’s trash talk hit a peak when he began to taunt Magic by singing the song, Be Like Mike, the Gatorade theme song at the time that featured MJ.
With that game, the basketball landscape had been altered. Larry Bird and Magic were talking after the scrimmage, and Michael interrupted them to let them know, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” In that moment, Jordan became King.