Once in a great while, everything comes together to create an immortal Olympic memory—lackadaisical NBA stars, bad officiating, anti-Americanism, fat Lithuanians with killer jump shots, and bad luck. Here, the shocking story of the 2004 Dream Team, in their own words
Boys Against Men
Richard Jefferson (forward, Team USA): My whole time in Greece depends on one thing. I’m not here to be an ambassador. I’m not here to go see sights or travel around. I’m here to try and win a gold medal.
Alexander Avramovski (fan, Macedonia): Before the Olympics, we were watching U.S. play Serbia. We got excited, because the U.S. team are not connected with each other.
David Stern (commissioner, NBA): I don’t use the words Dream Team, okay? There was one Dream Team and only one Dream Team.
Tom Tolbert (color commentator, ESPN): In our first game, Puerto Rico whacked us by nineteen. After that, I think teams stopped being intimidated. It was almost like Rocky hitting Drago over the left eye and Rocky’s trainer saying, “See? He’s just a man!”
Carlos Arroyo (guard, Team Puerto Rico): The first half, we ended up by twenty-two points. If we were on the other side, we would be frustrated too. We made history that night.
Carsten Mayer (reporter, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Germany): I can’t understand why they are so bad. Why are they so bad?
Jose Ortiz (center, Team Puerto Rico): Tim Duncan shook my hand and said we deserved to win. Nobody else shook my hand. Eight years ago, we would have been taking pictures with the U.S.A. players. Now we beating them.
Chuck Daly (coach, 1992 Dream Team): I was talking to one of the Puerto Rican players—he was 40 years old! Plus, he could play! We are now playing boys against men. Maybe four [players on the 2004 Olympic team] should have been still in college. And some in high school.
Peter Vecsey (columnist, New York Post): You could have sent the [NBA expansion team] Bobcats, who’ve never played, and you should have won this championship. Come on! It’s a joke! Puerto Rico. Who’d they have?
Deuce Is Big
Aaron Goodwin (LeBron James’s agent): The Queen Mary 2 [where Team USA stayed during the Games] is a real nice boat.
Dwyane Wade (guard, Team USA): Every time I said boat, they corrected me and said ship. It was like another world on that ship.
Koustautinos Tsorukoglou (guest, Queen Mary 2): Carmelo Anthony would call the Queen Mary 2 Deuce. He said, “Deuce is big.”
David Gevanthor (vice president, Cunard Line): The Queen Mary 2 is 1,132 feet long and has fourteen decks. It’s the world’s largest ocean liner. There is an onboard art collection worth in excess of $5 million. The largest collection of wine bottles at sea, over 50,000 bottles. The only planetarium at sea. A Canyon Ranch spa. Couples therapy. The cost, normally, on a first-class transatlantic crossing is $27,000 per person.
Tsorukoglou: I saw Carmelo get lost. He walked past me, then walked past again twenty minutes later.
Carmelo Anthony (forward, Team USA): I was down there with the workers, and they were wondering what I was doing. I didn’t know where I was at. I thought I had left off the boat.
Shawn Mario (forward, Team USA): There was this huge navy battleship sitting in the water next to us. The guns were drawn. Allen Iverson keeps saying this is the safest place in the world right now. Ain’t nobody messing with those guns.
Carl Marasigan (housekeeper, Queen Mary 2): I helped Tim Duncan take bags to his room. He gave me two bucks for a tip. I can’t believe it—he had pretty big stuff. Coach Brown tipped someone $20, and he left 100 euros for the housekeeper.
Recel Macapagal (housekeeper, Queen Mary 2): Their rooms are a mess. It’s like they were playing basketball inside, throwing everything everywhere.
The Greek Game Was the Worst
Tolbert: I don’t know what’s worse: not playing as hard as you can and getting beat by nineteen, or playing really hard and beating Greece by six points. I think beating Greece by six points is a little more disturbing.
Amar’e Stoudemire (forward, Team USA): The Greece game was probably the worst. People were screaming. There were police in the crowd. Carmelo turned to me at one point on the bench and said, “Man, if we don’t win this game, these Greeks are going to tear this place up.”
LeBron James (guard, Team USA): That was the loudest arena I’ve ever been in.
Marion: Everybody is against us. We’re out here all on our own.
Andrew Bogut (center, Team Australia): The Greek fans wanted U.S.A. to lose, because they’re cocky, pound their chests. You see that in the NBA, but in Europe it’s not respected.
Daly: Let’s be serious. If we take Kobe and we take McGrady and we take, you know, Shaq—I mean, you gotta be kiddin’ me. I don’t care how good they think their teams are. I really don’t care.
Grant Hill (Team USA, 1996): I think I’m being honest in saying that the NBA season is the priority [for NBA players].
Vecsey: I’d say more than half of the guys that go play in the Olympics wind up with a pretty big injury the next year.
“Pepe” Sanchez (guard, Team Argentina): A lot of great NBA players didn’t come. Some of my teammates don’t even know who the U.S. players are. I had to tell them, “Okay, this guy, he can shoot. That guy, he play defense.”
Wade: If they hadn’t pulled out, some of us guys wouldn’t have got the opportunity to go. So my thoughts on them is always just, Thank you.
Vecsey: I think Pat Riley said it—we should have sent the Pistons. And he’s right. Role player. Superstar. Everything is as it’s supposed to be. They have Stu Jackson, who failed with the Knicks, Wisconsin, Vancouver, and now he’s in charge of picking the Olympic team.
Wade: We were trying to get adjusted to the FIBA basketball. It’s just so slippery. Even I can’t palm it, and I got big hands. Practice was like little kids was playing at first. The ball was just kicked and slipping out of people’s hands.
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