Images of the Dream Team accepting their gold medals at the 1992 Olympics after crushing the opposition on their way to the top of the podium are among the most iconic in American sports history. But as with most iconic imagery, there's a deeper story behind certain parts of some of its more notable bits -- for example, why Michael Jordan had an American flag draped over his shoulder.
Jordan's goal wasn't patriotism, it was brand preservation, as outlined in 'The Last Dance' documentary. Even though Reebok had sponsored the clothing that Olympic athletes were supposed to wear when they were on the medal stand, that didn't sit well with the top star at Nike and reigning MVP. In fact, he was joined by every other teammate on the Dream Team and two other players when it came wearing the flag itself: Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley, as the Baltimore Sun recalls in a 1992 story.
When the U.S. basketball team took the medal stand yesterday after beating Croatia, 117-85, for the expected gold medal, all 12 players -- half work for Nike -- had unzipped their jackets so that the collars obscured the patch. Jordan, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson took the extra precaution of carrying an American flag over their right shoulders.
And so, as the national anthem played, there was no Reebok patch in sight.
Jordan actually wanted all 12 members to wear the flag over their shoulders, and it appears that he spearheaded the whole move. The spurn was so problematic that it stopped a manufacturer's logo from showing up on Olympic gear in the 1998 games in Nagano, a streak that was seven decades in the making at the time.
Most importantly, it inspired this great quote from Jordan.
"When you hire 12 Clint Eastwoods to come in here and do a job, don't ask them what bullets they're putting in the gun," Jordan told the Sun in 1992.