"Coach K" Mike Krzyzewski has his say on Dream Team vs Redeem Team debate

Legendary NCAA and USA Basketball national coach Mike Krzyzewski discusses which team would win in a straight series.

By ZK Goh

It's the topic every basketball fan has an opinion on. Michael Jordan or LeBron James?

Now, legendary USA Basketball and college coach Mike Krzyzewski – better known as Coach K – has weighed in.

He didn't express a direct opinion on the whole Jordan or LeBron debate, but did share his thoughts on two Olympic teams led by the greats – Jordan's "Dream Team" (Barcelona 1992) and LeBron's "Redeem Team" (Beijing 2008).

There are few men better placed to voice their opinion on the subject – Coach K was an assistant coach for the Dream Team, and the national team's head coach in Beijing. In total, he was on the coaching staff for five Olympic gold medal-winning teams (three as head coach, two as assistant).

And there's no doubt in his mind which team would win in a seven-game match-up between the two teams, assuming everyone was healthy and playing at their best.

"In their prime you're talking about 11 Hall of Famers and the greatest team," he said of the 1992 squad.

Professional basketball players at the Olympics

In Barcelona, for the first time in Olympic history, the United States team would feature active NBA stars Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley.

Until the 1992 Olympic Games, International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules had prevented teams from selecting professional players.

Some teams from Eastern Europe got around this rule by claiming their players worked for the military or other state organs, so the rule was changed to close the loophole.

USA Basketball actually voted against the rule change, but the proposal was passed and adopted in time for 1992.

Dream Team "rock stars"

"That was the first time the NBA came to the Olympics and there was a visionary moment by David Stern and the NBA," Krzyzewski said, referring to the then-NBA commissioner.

Coach K, talking on the "The Old Man and the Three" podcast hosted by New Orleans Pelicans guard J.J. Redick, recalled how the team changed basketball for the better in his opinion.

"Those guys were rock stars there. They were such gentlemen. They represented us so damn well. The NBA (players) of the 80s built the NBA of who you are today."

The team featured only one non-NBA player, Christian Laettner, who was selected in a nod to the American collegiate system from which players had previously been picked. He beat Shaquille O'Neal for the one amateur spot on the team by virtue of his strong college performances, although O'Neal had been the first pick in the 1992 NBA Draft.

The team averaged 117.3 points per game with head coach Chuck Daly not calling a single timeout during the tournament.

Present-day counterparts

With regards to the Beijing 2008 Redeem Team, Krzyzewski highlighted only the two biggest stars.

"Maybe some of the younger people today, they don't know how good Magic, or (Larry) Bird, even Jordan were.

"Kobe (Bryant) was this generation's Jordan. When that horrific accident (happened), I remember bringing my whole team to my office and they were crying. I was telling them stories because I didn't realise how much of a hero he was to this generation.

"In some respects, LeBron has been that now and I'm proud of him because he carries the mantle.

"He carries a lot of burden."