The opposition can't even count on an administrative screwup. One of Daly's assistants, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, is a former West Point coach who is quite familiar with those tricky 24-hour-clock times and won't be confused if an 1800 starting time is thrown at him. And another assistant, Seton Hall's P.J. Carlesimo, demonstrated his vigilance in Portland by visiting the scorer's table during virtually every timeout to ask questions about foul trouble and the like. (Then again, fearing that Daly might want him to come up with something for the coaches to say, P.J. probably just wanted to get out of the huddle.)
Still, sports revolves around the principle that no individual or team is invincible. The Prayin' Colonels of little Centre College beat Harvard 6-0 in 1921 in football. The lowly U.S. soccer team beat powerful England 1-0 in World Cup play in '50. Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson a couple of years ago. The Jets beat the Colts in Super Bowl III. Bob Beamon beat the heck out of 28 feet in '68. Do you believe in miracles? The '80 U.S. Olympic hockey team did.
And so, in the spirit of anything-can-happen-on-a-given-day, we present three scenarios in which the Dream Team does not win the gold.
•The Vallromanes Golf Club Scenario. As you have probably heard by now, the Dream Teamers found a little time for golf in Portland and, before that, during their "training camp" in La Jolla, Calif. Jordan played golf every day except one (and on that day he played tennis), and Bird, Drexler, Charles Barkley, Robinson and John Stockton (before he suffered a fracture in his right leg in the win over Canada) also took to the links frequently. Only Malone, to whom golf represents "a giant waste of pastureland," would not tee it up in any situation, and the Dream Teamers fully expect to whack the ball around in Barcelona. So...
Early on Aug. 8, the morning of the gold medal game, Barkley, Drexler, Jordan and Robinson decide to play one of Catalonia's better courses, Vallromanes, which is located north of the municipal sports arena in Badalona, the site of the basketball competition. Though not a golfer himself, Magic joins them (as he did from time to time in Portland) to drive the cart, keep score and yell, "You the man!" Because of the day's significance, the Dream Teamers vow to play only 18 holes, though Jordan hopes to hit a bucket or two of practice balls after they're finished.
Jordan and Robinson against Barkley and Drexler, $1,000 Nassau, one down, automatic presses. There's also a giant skins game, greenies and other side bets, and it's all so complicated that only math wizard Robinson can keep track of it, on a calculator that he designed in fifth grade. Anyway, after 18 holes Robinson says that they're even, so Jordan suggests a sudden-death hole. They play numbers 1, 2 and 3 without breaking the deadlock and become so engrossed in the competition that they lose track of time.
Barkley finally chips in from the apron on 4 for the victory, and he's so happy that he proceeds to drive the cart all over the course, shouting, "We're Number One!" That kills another 30 minutes. Then the Dream Teamers jump into their car and—horror of horrors!—run into a monumental traffic jam on the A-19 highway that leads into Badalona. When Barkley tries to pass, an unsympathetic policeman who couldn't get tickets to the final directs them back into line.
In the arena, meanwhile, the rest of the American players, who might still have enough firepower to win, are panicking. Ewing is in foul trouble; Stockton, without much point-guard relief, is exhausted; Malone is angry that his teammates went out to waste pastureland on such an important day; and Daly has already been taken to a nearby hospital. The breathless golfers arrive just in time to watch, horrified, as Sarunas Marciulionis sinks two free throws to give Lithuania an 89-88 victory.
Barkley then reminds Jordan and Robinson that he will accept a check.
•The Blinding Flashbulb Scenario. One of the subplots—heck, it was a whole plot—of the qualifying tournament was the obsequiousness of the opposition. The opposing players begged for autographs and souvenirs (one player even asked for Magic's jersey as he guarded him at midcourt) and practically bowed with reverence when each rout was over. But the big thing was photos. Photos before the game, photos during the game, photos after the game. So...