Through the sports we love, we ride a roller coaster of home stretches, tie breakers, close calls and Hail Marys. While we travel the ups and downs of our actual lives, we watch our teams traverse their own exciting paths, safe in the knowledge that with sports, the train can never really fall completely off the tracks. In this month's Single-Owner Collection of Sports Memorabilia, we offer sports mementos that are priceless as much because of the memories of the highest highs and the lowest lows as they are because of their rarity. It's a ride we can't get enough of, because even when your team loses, there's always another game, a chance for redemption. And sometimes redemption is the sweetest part.
USA 1992 Olympic Basketball Team Cap, Signed Jordan, Drexler, Pippen
For decades, the United States reigned supreme in Olympic basketball. Since the sport joined the Olympics in 1936, the American team didn't lose a single game for 36 years. But over time the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries began to use professional players on their teams, listing their occupation as "soldier" or "worker." In 1972, long before the Cold War ran its course, the Soviets upset the Americans in the gold medal game with a buzzer-beating lay-up - the Americans' first basketball loss in Olympic history.
From then on the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries began to make inroads on the medal podium. But in 1992, the International Basketball Federation finally voted to allow professional basketball players to compete in the Olympics, bringing them up to par with sports like soccer, hockey, and tennis. The American press was torn - they weren't sure our NBA players would be interested in playing in the Olympics. They were wrong.
The American basketball team that went to the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992 is likely the highest concentration of talent that has ever been on a basketball court at one time. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson - the list goes breathlessly on. In their first qualifying game against Cuba, the Dream Team won 136-57. As the Cuban coach said post-game, "You can't cover the sun with your finger." The scrimmage the team played against itself in Barcelona is known as "the greatest game no one ever saw."
Needless to say, the Americans brought home gold in '92. And have every Olympics since save one. The dynasty persists. And that's the glory of sports - once you tie your hopes to a team, their defeats are crushing, but their victories are the stuff of dreams.