The first time the Dream Team played with one another, at a scrimmage in San Diego one month before trouncing its 1992 Summer Olympic opponents by an average of 43.8 points, they lost 62–54. To a team of college kids.
Granted, it wasn’t just any group of college kids. It was a collection of eight NCAA stars that included Chris Webber, Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway. The distributor of that group was point guard Bobby Hurley, coming off back-to-back NCAA titles at Duke.
What was it like to defeat the greatest basketball team ever assembled with 11 future Hall of Famers on its roster? Hurley, the new associate head coach at Rhode Island, recently spoke with Lost Lettermen managing editor Chris Mahr about that now-famous scrimmage.
Lost Lettermen: It’s been 20 years this past June since that game. What do you remember?
Bobby Hurley: The memories are still pretty fresh. That was the highlight of my basketball life, to spend a week competing against that caliber of players. I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. I knew I was a really good player at the time but I never thought I’d be able to compete with those guys like I did.
LL: How were the college players selected?
BH: It was an eight-man team — myself, Grant Hill, Chris Webber, Penny Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Rodney Rogers, Allan Houston and Eric Montross — selected by USA Basketball based on what you had accomplished as an amateur player up to that point and where you were tracking professionally. When Coach K mentioned that I had an invitation, there was no hesitation on my part.
LL: What was it like coming together?
BH: It was fun to play with those guys because they loved to run, and that was my kind of game too. It was entertaining and enjoyable for me to have options like Webber, Rogers and Hill.
LL: It’s been written that Dream Team coach Chuck Daly threw that first scrimmage to send a message. Was there a fix?
BH: Not that I know of. We thought we were getting sent to the wolves. Before the game there was a fear factor, watching the Dream Team going through their paces and showing how good they were. But when the ball goes up, you just start playing. You have to forget that you’re out there with Jordan, Magic, Barkley and Pippen.
LL: The video of the scrimmage shows you slicing through the Dream Team defense. Do you remember it being that easy?
BH: At the time my game was in a good place, coming off two NCAA championships. So from a confidence and level-of-play standpoint I was peaking as a player. A lot of my success that day was due to who I was playing with. They couldn’t focus on just one of us. Everyone on the floor was capable of making plays.
LL: What performances from your team do you remember?
BH: I remember Chris Webber being very, very disruptive. Blocking shots, rebounding, running the court and finishing with authority. Grant and Penny scored in transition, penetrated and made plays off the dribble. Rodney was physical, could run the court like a guard and had some highlight dunks. And Allan hit a few threes. We all played a roll.
LL: How did the Dream Team play?
BH: I think they were searching. They weren’t in sync or accustomed to playing as much, which happens when you’re putting a team together and trying different combinations of players. We capitalized when they turned it over. When you’re playing a lot of guys, players who are used to playing a lot have trouble getting into a rhythm.
LL: Are reports that Michael Jordan played minimally in the game true?
BH: I remember him being out there but can’t accurately say for how long. He was so quick and fast with great defensive instincts. I was always worrying where he was. My head was on a swivel trying to find him.
LL: How did the end of the game go down?
BH: Coach Daly called that last timeout after a turnover. He looked frustrated and really got into those guys about what was happening. I saw those guys and how competitive they were. They weren’t happy, either.
LL: What was the reaction of the college kids when you realized you won?
BH: It was shocking, but in the gym we were very humble. We went and had lunch after and felt great. We just beat the best collection of players in the world. But deep down we all knew that wasn’t how things would play out the rest of the week.
LL: Did you and Grant give (Dream Teamer and former Duke teammate) Christian Laettner a lot of flak?
BH: It was a good moment for me and Grant with Christian. He had a look right before the scrimmage like, “You’re going to get destroyed.” He was stunned by the final result, too. That was fun.
LL: How did things play out the rest of the week?
BH: The court shrank. There weren’t opportunities to run, and in the half court we had no offense. They weren’t turning the ball over while turning us over. They had one lineup with Jordan, Pippen and Drexler on the perimeter that was especially tough. They were so long and quick, you couldn’t go by them or create anything.
They beat us by 30 points in that next scrimmage, and it could have been more than that. We had 3-4 scrimmages the rest of the week, and all of them had similar outcomes.
LL: What was it like to see video of that first scrimmage for the first time?
BH: I never thought we would see anything from that game. Those clips brought back great memories.
What that game did for me was elevate my confidence level to an even higher level. At first I thought it was an insurmountable gap in terms of competing against players that good. That week showed me there was a gap but it wasn’t that big. It was an experience that went beyond winning that game.