Nobody would ever question Kobe Bryant's amazing basketball ability, or his incredible competitive desire.
But as for his judgment and intelligence, well, let's just say there are times when it seems he's probably not the brightest crayon in the box.
Bryant ignited a verbal firestorm last week when he was asked how this year's U.S. Olympic men's basketball team might fare against that 1992 collection of stars affectionately known as the Dream Team.
And, Kobe being Kobe, he opened his mouth and stuck both feet in it by saying this year's squad could beat their '92 counterparts.
"Well, just from a basketball standpoint, they obviously have a lot more size than we do ... you know, with (David) Robinson and (Patrick) Ewing and (Karl) Malone and those guys," Bryant told a reporter in Las Vegas, where the 2012 team is busy working out in preparation for the London Summer Games which begin later this month.
"But they were also ... some of those wing players ... were also a lot older, at kind of the end of their careers," he continued. "We have just a bunch of young racehorses, guys that are eager to compete.
"So I don't know. It'd be a tough one, but I think we'd pull it out."
Sorry, but it seems that Kobe was, well ... dreaming.
Predictably, Bryant's comments brought some scoffing reaction from a couple of proud old pros, Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan, who were members of that '92 squad that massacred its opponents by an average of almost 44 points a game — and never won by less than 32.
Barkley, always candid with his comments, told a Philadelphia radio show that the '92 Team would not only beat this year's squad, but that the Dream Teamers would win by double digits.
"Oh yeah, that's no disrespect," Barkley said. "I ain't got to badmouth them. But like I said, their point guards (Chris Paul and Deron Williams) weren't going to beat us. That's a no-brainer."
Indeed, the Dream Team's point guards were a couple of guys you've probably heard of, Magic Johnson and John Stockton, who was forced to miss most of the '92 Olympics after fracturing a bone in his leg earlier that year in the Tournament of the Americas leading up to the Summer Games.
But with guards like Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler also on the roster, the Dream Team certainly found a way to distribute the ball without Stockton in its lineup.
Asked about Bryant's comments regarding some members of the Dream Team's age, Barkley rightfully blasted holes in Bryant's faulty math.
"I just started laughing," said Barkley, who was the Dream Team's leading scorer with an average of just 18 points per game, as this unprecedented assortment of superstars were content to spread the scoring around — something Bryant could take a lesson from.
"How old is Kobe Bryant? He's 34? And he's calling us old? At the time, we were only like 28, 29. Michael Jordan?and me were the same age. We were both 29."
Actually, only two members of the Dream Team — Magic (33) and Bird (35) — were more than 30 years old in 1992. Stockton and Drexler, both 30, were the next oldest, and Barkley, Jordan, Malone, Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing were all 29 that year. Robinson was 27 and Pippen just 26. Duke star Christian Laettner, the College Player of the Year, rounded out the '92 roster.
"Other than Kobe, LeBron (James) and Kevin Durant," Barkley said, "I don't think anybody else on that team makes our team."
Sir Charles is absolutely right. Those three current NBA stars are gonna get theirs against anybody. But really, with Tyson Chandler as your center, do you think this year's team would stand a chance against that '92 squad? I seriously doubt it.
As you might expect, so does Jordan.
"For him to compare those two teams is not one of the smarter things he ever could have done," Jordan, who also said he "absolutely laughed" when he heard Bryant's comments, said in published reports. "I heard Kobe say we were not athletic. But we were smart. He said we were too old, but I was 29 and in the prime of my career. … Almost everybody was still in their twenties.
"I imagine he's trying to say it to legitimize his own Dream Team," Jordan said. "But to me it's not even a question what team is better. For him to make that comparison, it's one of those things where it creates conversation. I guess we'll never know. I'd like to think that we had 11 Hall of Famers on that team, and whenever they get 11 Hall of Famers, you call and ask me who had the better Dream Team. Remember now, they learned from us. We didn't learn from them."
Not that I always enjoy everything that comes out of Jordan's mouth — his Hall of Fame acceptance speech smacked of "I'm still the greatest of all time" and was not the least bit gracious — but this time I've gotta say well said, MJ, well said.
Actually, the 2012 U.S. team isn't nearly as strong as it could be because it's missing some of the game's top players — Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin — who have been sidelined by injuries.
And to think that a squad featuring the likes of Paul, Williams, Chandler, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Andre Iguodola and Anthony Davis would be able to compete against Jordan, Pippen, Barkley, Malone, Robinson, Ewing, Mullin, Drexler and Co., all in their prime — even with Magic retired due to contracting the AIDS virus, Bird at the end of his career with a bad back and Stockton hobbled by a broken leg — is downright ludicrous.
Asked about it again later in the week, Bryant backed off a bit on his original comments.
"It's tough," he said. "If you're asking me, 'Can you beat them one game?' Hell, yeah, we can beat them one game.
"You didn't ask me if we could beat them in a seven-game series. In one game, we can beat them. No question about it." And, you know what? He's right. But only if you can follow the shrewd logic of none other than Bird.4 comments on this story
"They probably could," he tweeted. "I haven't played in 20 years and we're all old now."
Yep, there you have it, the 2012 team would definitely beat the Dream Team if they played today — but only because the Hall of Fame members of that '92 squad are all now in their late-40s and early 50s. And just a little past their prime.
Otherwise, it's no contest.