The term “Dream Team” is one that will, for American sports fans, always conjure up memories of the 1992 United States Men’s Olympic Basketball Team that featured arguably the greatest roster of basketball players ever assembled. National Basketball Association royalty such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, David Robinson and others steamrolled through the Barcelona Summer Olympics, carving up opponents while at the same time delighting international crowds who followed the squad around Spain as if they were the Rolling Stones. The ’92 Dream Team was the first of its kind, and it will never truly be replicated.
With that said, the idea of piecing extremely talented athletes together to make for a squad of superstars for tournaments and competitive leagues did not originate back in 1992, and it is a notion that has been repeated by domestic and international coaches, general managers and sporting directors for years. The New York Yankees made the concept work several times in the late 1990s. One could say the same about the Boston Red Sox teams that won championships in 2004 and 2007, although the Red Sox rarely receive criticism for “buying” World Series titles. That, however, is another story for another piece.
There are also numerous instances of clubs and franchises attempting to build “Dream Teams” only for that idea to fail and fail spectacularly. Somewhat ironically is that the squad that is atop the list of the most lackluster superstar teams in history is one that represented the United States during a Summer Olympic basketball tournament. That team, most notably the way that it flopped in the competition, left little doubt that the rest of the world had caught up to the US in men’s basketball, and it caused a shift in the way that USA Basketball built squads for future international tournaments.
20. 2001 “Alliance” Team
Just because this involved pro wrestling, does not mean that it does not deserve recognition as being one of the worst “Dream Teams” ever. The World Wrestling Federation stood tall as the last great North American wrestling company in March of 2001 when members of the old World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling organizations “invaded” the WWF. Existing contracts and other matters kept many big names such as Scott Steiner, Goldberg and others from participating in the Alliance, and fans instead were presented with a “watered down” version of what should have been an all-time great storyline.
19. 18-1 New England Patriots
What you have to remember about the 2007 New England Patriots is not just that they went 18-0 before taking on the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. The Patriots were heavy favorites to blow the Giants right out of the water in Arizona. Even local New York radio hosts were predicting that Big Blue was going to be the last victim of New England’s pursuit of perfection. The Giants had other ideas, and New York pulled off the upset thanks to a menacing pass rush and a helmet catch that will live on for generations to come. “18-1” will be the cry of Giants fans whenever these two teams meet up on the field of battle.
18. 2012 Miami Marlins
“How the Miami Marlins Disgraced Baseball” was the title of a Time story following a year that was supposed to put Miami baseball on the map for good. The Marlins had a shiny new ballpark and stars such as Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Giancarlo Stanton, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck and Hanley Ramirez. None of it mattered, as the Marlins floundered and then finished dead last in the division standings before dumping the team’s best players. The Marlins are once again a terrible team in 2015, a far cry from the lineup that took the field at the start of the 2012 season.
17. 1998 Brazil Men’s World Cup Team
What exactly happened leading up to the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final may never fully be known. Brazil, as expected, made their way to the Final, and many believed that they would take it to France en route to winning the tournament. Superstar Ronaldo was then left off of the Brazil teamsheet for the Final before he appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, ready to play in the eleventh hour. His presence on the pitch would not matter, though, as Zinedine Zidane shined and guided France to a 3-0 victory. You can pick from your own conspiracy theories, which have included match-fixing allegations, for what you think occurred on that day.
16. 2001-2 St. Louis Rams
Where you think this team belongs on the list likely depends on why you believe the St. Louis Rams lost Super Bowl XXXVI to the New England Patriots. St. Louis was responsible for “The Greatest Show on Turf,” an offense said to be able to beat New England at a venue such as the Superdome by two touchdowns. The Rams were held to only 17 points, though, and New England quarterback Tom Brady engineered a last-minute drive to allow Adam Vinatieri to boot a game-winning field goal as time expired. It was the “Spygate” implications against the Patriots that followed the contest that led many to believe, some to this day, that New England cheated to win the title.
15. 1995-98 Cleveland Indians
After nearly 40 years of largely being a Major League Baseball laughingstock, the Cleveland Indians seemed poised and ready to win a championship. The Indians had all of the goods to be a team of the decade. Cleveland had power and speed in the lineup. The Indians were solid in the field, and they had good pitching rotations and solid bullpens to finish games off. Cleveland failed to get the job done every time over this four-year span, most painfully in 1997. The Indians took a lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Florida Marlins, but closer Jose Mesa, who had been superb throughout the year, could not hold the advantage. Florida won in extra innings, and the Indians have not since returned to a World Series.
14. 1990s Buffalo Bills
You know the names. Jim Kelly. Thurman Thomas. Bruce Smith. Andre Reed. All-Pros and all-time greats played for those Buffalo Bills teams in the early 1990s, squads that failed to win the Super Bowl a single occasion. The closest any of those teams came to winning it all occurred at Super Bowl XXV when the Bills were facing off against what was, on paper, an over-matched New York Giants side. New York held possession of the football for over 40 minutes, keeping the high-powered Buffalo offense on the sideline for much of the contest. The Bills went on to lose the game on a last-second field goal that sailed – you guessed it – wide right.
13. 1999-2000 St. Louis Blues
The 1999-2000 St. Louis Blues had Hart Trophy winner Chris Pronger on the roster, and Pronger may not have even been the best player on that team when you consider that Pavol Demitra and Pierre Turgeon also played for the Blues that season. St. Louis not making it through the postseason to the Stanley Cup Final would have been surprising enough. That the top seed out of the Western Conference would not even get past the No. 8 San Jose Sharks in the first round of the Playoffs was, at the time, unimaginable. The Sharks paid no attention to such talk, beating St. Louis is seven games to shock the NHL world.
12. 1998 United States Olympic Hockey Team
The 1998 Winter Olympics of Nagano, Japan included National Hockey League players taking the ice for their countries. There were always going to be disappointments in the tournament. That the United States did not win gold was, on its own, not a massive news story despite the fact that the squad seemed to be a juggernaut. What gets the US team on this list is that the players reportedly were far more interested in enjoying the nightlife in and around Nagano than they were in competing. To put the icing on top of the embarrassment cake, some of the American players trashed rooms at the athlete’s village after the US was eliminated from the tournament.
11. 2011 Boston Red Sox
All signs were pointing to the Boston Red Sox dominating the American League and possibly all of Major League Baseball at the start of the 2011 season. The Red Sox traded for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and the club then signed outfielder Carl Crawford. Those moves bolstered a lineup that was already featuring David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. In a collapse that mirrored what had occurred during the 2004 American League Championship Series, the Red Sox failed to hold onto a nine-game division lead in the final month of the year. If that was not bad enough, stories then emerged that certain members of the Red Sox were having a bit too much fun during games.
10. 2002 France Men’s World Cup Team
The France Men’s National Team brought with it high expectations to the 2002 World Cup. That France would not even make it out of the group stages of the tournament was, at the time, unthinkable. France’s poor run of form began with a shocking 1-0 defeat at the hands of Senegal, and that result proved to be a preview of things to come for the defending World Cup champs. When all was said and done, France was unceremoniously booted out of the World Cup after having earned a single point in three group contests. Even worse, France failed to notch even a single goal.
9. 2002 Miami Hurricanes football team
Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer had high praise for the 2002 Miami Hurricanes: “We’re coming and playing the best football team ever in college football. I said last year that they were the best I’d seen, but this one is better.” Beamer had a point. Quarterback Ken Dorsey had running back Willis McGahee, wide receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Kellen Winslow II as weapons on offense. The Miami defense featured Sean Taylor, Jonathan Vilma and Antrel Rolle as starters; and Vince Wilfork as a backup! Greatness was not there waiting for Miami in the end, though, as the Hurricanes lost the National Championship Game to Ohio State in double overtime.
8. 2010-11 Miami Heat
Free agent pickup LeBron James joked, while being introduced alongside new teammate Chris Bosh and Miami Heat mainstay Dwyane Wade, that the Heat would win “not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7” NBA Championships, and it was all-but expected that James would lead the Heat to a title during his first season in South Beach. The Decision ultimately worked out for James, who won multiple championships with Miami, but the 2010-11 Heat failed to get the job done. Miami lost the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, a better overall team, in six games.
7. 2013-14 Barcelona
The 2013-14 Barcelona squad was never going to have things easy, mostly because rivals Real Madrid were also carrying an incredible roster filled with talent and depth. With that said, a club with players such as Lionel Messi, Neymar, Jordi Alba, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and other great talents not winning a significant trophy was a massive disappointment. Along with blowing an opportunity to win the La Liga crown on the final day of the season, Barcelona dropped the Copa del Rey to Real. Salt was then poured into that wound when Real went on to win the Champions League Final.
6. 2011 Philadelphia Eagles
Backup quarterback Vince Young was really pumped to join the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2011 NFL regular season, to the point that he referred to the Philadelphia roster as being a Dream Team. Along with re-signing Michael Vick, the Eagles acquired big names such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Ronnie Brown, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and others. As has been the case for the Eagles many times, the dream turned into a nightmare. Philadelphia struggled throughout the bulk of the campaign, and a hot run during the holiday season was not enough to push the Eagles into the playoffs. Meanwhile, division rivals the New York Giants won the Super Bowl the subsequent February. Ouch.
5. 2004 New York Yankees
The 2004 New York Yankees seemed destined to make history after the Yanks added Alex Rodriguez to a stacked roster that already had Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Orlando Hernandez, Kevin Brown, Mariano Rivera and others. New York won the American League East and then jumped out to a 3-0 lead over hated rivals the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. You likely know how the story ended. Boston won back-to-back games at home to remain alive, Curt Schilling and his bloody sock shut the Yankees down in Game 6, and the Red Sox blew the Yankees out in New York to complete the comeback.
4. 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers added All-Star players Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to a squad that was, on paper, capable of making a postseason run and contending for a championship if it got hot at the right time. Things started out disastrously for the Lakers, as head coach Mike Brown was fired after LA lost four of the team’s first five regular season contests. Any and all hopes that the Lakers would win the NBA Championship were dashed right before the playoffs when Kobe Bryant went down with a torn Achilles. That injury proved to be the beginning of the end of the Lakers dynasty.
3. 1980 USSR Olympic Hockey Team
“Do you believe in miracles?!?” is the phrase commonly associated with the 1980 USSR Olympic Hockey Team. The group of Eastern Bloc professionals that was supposed to be untouchable at the 1980 Winter Olympics likely saw their performance against the US in the medal-round as more of a choke-job than a result of divine intervention. Soviet head coach Viktor Tikhonov showed just how shaken he was after the first period ended at 2-2 when he shockingly replaced all-world goaltender Vladislav Tretiak with backup Vladimir Myshkin. The rest, as the saying goes, is history, as the USSR fell to a group of collegiate and amateur US players.
2. 2014-15 Real Madrid
Real Madrid were supposedly on the cusp of a new era of greatness following the 2013-14 campaign in which Real won the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. The squad included names such as: Iker Casillas, Pepe, Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, Isco, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, and, of course Cristiano Ronaldo. Not only did Real fail to match the accomplishments of the 2013-14 team. The club didn’t win a single trophy, a disgrace that landed manager Carlo Ancelotti on the unemployment line roughly 12 months after he was hoisting the Champions League trophy.
1. 2004 United States Men’s Olympic Basketball Team
Signs that trouble was brewing for USA Basketball first appeared in 2002 when the Americans failed to notch even a top-five finish at the FIBA World Championship which was held in Indianapolis. That proved to be more than just a blip on the radar, as talented youngsters lacking top-notch international experience such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade combined with veterans such as Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan struggled at the 2004 Olympics right out of the gates. Puerto Rico shocked the world by dominating the US, and the Americans failed to win gold for the first time since the ’92 Dream Team. “Never again” became the mantra of USA Basketball, and the so-called “Redeem Team” would right this wrong by winning gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics.