The Making of a Dream Team: When Expert Teams Do Best
The original use of the phrase “Dream Team” was in reference to the US basketball team that won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Team members included basketball greats (e.g., Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird) as well as Charles Barkley and seven more NBA All-Stars. This team of twelve proficient athletes who were at the top of their game seamlessly blended their talents such that they dominated the Olympic competition, beating their eight opponents by an average of 44 points.
On February 22, 1980 at the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid a highly skilled Russian hockey team, recognized as the best hockey team in the world, lost 4–3 to a young but skilled collegiate US hockey team. The US victory over the “undefeatable” Russian team in the semi-finals, whom they had just lost to 10–3 a week before in an exhibition match, put the US team in contention for the gold medal. The US hockey team, which had been seeded seventh in the 12-team tournament, went on to beat Finland (4–2) for the gold medal.
So what distinguishes these two teams from other teams? Teamwork? Individual expertise? Both? What led the original “Dream Team” to dominate the 1992 Olympics? Conversely, what led the star Russian team to lose to a team they had dominated only a week before?