Beyond that, I thought these guys had remained such compelling characters that you can tell about them now. Then when I started writing the book I realized that it could be about the whole era. Starting with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird [in the NBA in the 1980s] and kind of ending with the Dream Team, that was sort of the glory of the most successful era of basketball. So, my idea was to include everything in it. And I hope it worked.
You always have those interviews, but then the way I started was to go back and read every story I had written about these guys since 1984. Do whatever kind of research you can do. I read a number of books, certainly Jackie MacMullan's book about Bird and Magic and Sam Smith's book about Jordan, because I sensed from the beginning that they were going to be the dominant characters. So you're doing all of this research and as you get somebody, you go back and fill in the blanks. You do not do a book like this on page one and then the end, page 330. It changes all the time, goes back and forth all the time. The beginning becomes the middle, the middle becomes the end, and the end becomes three quarters of the way through, based on the information that you get from the guys during the interviews.
Michael never does interviews anymore. He almost never talks. And he had this ancient fight with
Jordan was the guy. [U.S. team organizers] needed Jordan, Jordan didn't need them. He didn't need the endorsements. He was the busiest person in the world, and he was already the biggest star in the world, and he didn't want to spend his summer playing basketball with someone he didn't want to play with. He didn't want chemistry issues in July and August.
No. 2, what was also situational was that Europe at the time was an incredibly fertile ground. They had the NBA, but they really had it in bite-size nuggets. They really had only the appetizer, and what they were waiting for was the main course. So there was sort of a mystical, easy thing about the NBA, and now they were going to see it in real life.
And finally, these players, in terms of a sporting culture, were as big as you could get. I think probably you could put LeBron in that category now. Maybe Kobe and Shaq when they were together. But you're talking about a time in our sport when guys like Magic, Michael and Larry were as famous as any athletes, and the NBA was at the top of the sporting culture.
You combine those three things, and there's no doubt that the Dream Team had a situational advantage.
Plus, it was a numbers game. It was suddenly 100 million people are watching this team, well maybe five million of them start playing basketball instead of soccer. And maybe one million of them start becoming really good. And maybe 100 out of that million get to the NBA level. This isn't just me theorizing it; the NBA has done research on what happened and why the game evolved into an international game and where the international players can thrive. The No. 1 reason by far was not marketing, not touring teams, not clinics, not television proliferation -- although all that happened. The No. 1 reason they list for why the game began to grow was the advent of the Dream Team in '92.