It was disappointing to read Clyde Drexler's comments about Magic Johnson and the impact of the Lakers superstar's HIV diagnosis in Jack McCallum's soon-to-be-released book, "Dream Team." In essence, Drexler is quoted as saying that Magic - who retired immediately after his diagnosis in the preseason of 1991 - was named to the 1992 All-Star team and the original Dream Team only as a sentimental reaction to what at the time was thought to be death sentence.
As an NBA writer and one of a handful or so of journalists who accompanied the team throughout that summer of 1992, to La Jolla, Portland, Monte Carlo and Barcelona, this is the short version: There indeed was a sense within the league that the former Lakers star was dying, and and a fear even among some within USA Basketball -- initially including current USAB czar Jerry Colangelo and Karl Malone - that the disease could be transmitted during games. NBA Commissioner David Stern moved quickly to educate everyone about HIV, and eventually, most of the concerns were allayed.
It is also true that, since Magic had retired before the 1991 season, his addition to the '92 All-Star Game - the league's annual lovefest and exhibition, by the way - was a sentimental reaction to his circumstances, a celebration of his life and abbreviated career.
But as far as Magic not deserving a spot on the Dream Team? Seriously? I hope Drexler, who was known as a genial, accommodating star throughout his NBA career, was just having a bad day. Back in 1992, when NBA stars were first eligible to compete in international competition, the Dream Team roster was all about showtime. FIBA was virtually begging NBA superstars to participate in its attempt to "globalize" and grow the game.
The Americans obliged - en masse. Larry Bird was within months of retiring, and because of his ailing back, and could't even walk in Opening Ceremonies. John Stockton was hurt throughout the Games. The late Chuck Daly often joked about how the injuries to his superstars made it easier to allocate playing time.
As for Drexler, who was a late addition to the team anyway, and who took a roster spot that would have gone to Isiah Thomas if the former Detroit Pistons' star wasn't so despised by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, among others? On a team that played the game at its highest level EVER, with breathtaking, intuitive sequences during which the ball never touched the floor - it was rebound, outlet pass, pass, pass, layup - I recall numerous instances where Drexler disrupted the astounding symmetry, the rhythm, with ill-advised, unnecessary three-pointers. I won't mention names here, but Drexler's poor decision-making elicited plenty of headshakes and frowns from a group that included the young, irascible, and emerging Charles Barkley.
I'm thinking Clyde should just be happy he was part of history.