He is the player who will make sure the (super)stars are aligned, the one who will see to it that the Dream Team lives up to the second half of its name. Phoenix Suns point guard Jason Kidd is the type of selfless distributor essential to a collection of all-stars, especially one as loaded with firepower as the U.S. men's basketball squad. Kidd's greatest offensive skill is bringing out the talents of others. His job in Sydney will be to lob alley-oops to Vince Carter and Kevin Garnett, to feed Allan Houston and Ray Allen for jumpers, to drive the lane and dish the ball to Alonzo Mourning and Vin Baker for dunks. He led the victorious U.S. in assists during the Olympic qualifying tournament in July 1999, and he's almost certain to do so again. On the Dream Team's cruise to the gold medal, Kidd, 27, will be the social director, making sure none of his teammates is left out of the fun.
For Kidd, that is the fun. "There's nothing better than making the pass that gives someone an easy hoop," he says. "Passing is contagious. If I can help set that tone, it will make us an even better team."
If there's anything more predictable than the nickname of Honolulu-born world champion light flyweight (106-pound) Brian Viloria—yep, it's Hawaiian Punch—it's the outcome of his fights. Viloria, just 19 and perhaps the brightest prospect on the 12-boxer U.S. squad, is blessed with blinding speed and power to match. In a USA Boxing-conducted test using a heavy bag equipped with electronic sensors, the 5' 4" Viloria registered more punching force than any boxer up through welterweight (147 pounds).
Viloria took up boxing at age six and began competing on the U.S. mainland at 15. He braved very un-Hawaiian winters to attend Northern Michigan on a boxing scholarship, training under 1996 U.S. Olympic coach Al Mitchell. Last March, Viloria suffered his only loss of the past two years 4-1 to '99 Pan Am Games bronze medalist Ivan Calderon of Puerto Rico. He bounced back last month to beat Calderon 19-4. Viloria, who will go to Sydney as a big (O.K., not so big) favorite, has already been approached by promoters about turning pro. "I'm not worrying about that," he says. "I just want to go there, do my job and take home a gold medal."
—L. Jon Wertheim
If your image of the star shortstop on the U.S.'s defending gold medal softball team is a spunky little blonde with a medical degree, brace yourself. Crystl Bustos, 23, has replaced Dr. Dot Richardson, 38, as America's infield linchpin and cleanup hitter. The muscular 5' 8" Bustos, from Canyon Country, Calif., lacks Dr. Dot's bubbly personality, but her ability to sting a first baseman's palm from the hole and clout softballs over fences figures to earn her scores of admirers by the Games' end.
Twice juco player of the year while at Palm Beach ( Fla.) Community College, Bustos joined the Women's Professional Softball League in 1998. She holds the league's season records for average (.400) and home runs (10). After U.S. coach Ralph Raymond persuaded her to join the national team in June 1999, Bustos smacked a team-high 18 hits and 15 RBIs in the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg the next month, and Richardson gamely moved to second.
Roommates as well as teammates, Bustos and Richardson have formed a mutual-admiration society. "Her power is awesome," says Richardson. "To play beside her is an honor." Says Bustos, "Dot's a terrific teacher."