‘Dream Team’ Photographer Details How Team USA Put Egos in ‘One Big Pot’

Charles Barkley Michael Jordan Team USA

Getty Phoenix Suns forward Charles Barkley (34) laughs at a foul call with Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan (23).

Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley‘s Dream Team were the epitome of success during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

That Olympic gold medal team had everybody: Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson and many more.

What was that team like?

Insert legendary NBA photographer Andrew D. Bernstein who was 34 years old at the time when he was around that team.

You’ve seen many of his legendary photos that have encapsulated the landscape of the NBA.

Bernstein recently caught up with me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast and discussed what it was like to capture the essence of that team.

Check out our Q&A from the Scoop B Radio Podcast below:

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: What was your earliest recollection of Michael Jordan?

Andrew D. Bernstein: Earliest recollection was how athletic he was. The first time I shot him, I don’t remember which exact game it was but I just couldn’t believe a guy could jump up like that I’d been shooting the NBA at that point and his reputation exceeded him but to see him in person. The way he conducted himself in person and his athleticism on the floor he wasn’t quite the specimen that he became a few years later when he really started to work out religiously. He bulked up and became this statuesque character. I just couldn’t believe how athletic he was and fast he was it was amazing.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: You were the key photographer for the United States national basketball team in 1992. This was the Dream Team. Many know them Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Chris Mullin, and the rest. All I remember as a kid was I don’t know no Angola but they’re in trouble.

Andrew D. Bernstein: They were. I was there.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: How old were you at that point?

Andrew D. Bernstein: I was 34 years old.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: …When you look back on that Dream Team what was it like? It was like covering rock stars.

Andrew D. Bernstein: It was literally like that you’ve got that summed up. These guys were so revered as not just basketball players but as a group they were, you know the world had never seen that before in any sport much less basketball. To have a collection of the top professional players representing the United States going out there and doing what they do as a team a collective one. It was interesting because they from day one when they ensembled for training camp that one thing had to happen they had to play as a team. But they had the perfect coach Chuck Daly he knew how to speak to these guys he respected him and they brought in on the team concept.

The old expression ‘leave your ego at the door’ type of thing – he didn’t really ask them to leave egos at the door, but to kind of put their egos into one big pot. The mission was to gel as a team and got that gold medal and that’s what they did. I don’t remember a moment where there was jockeying for the ball, there was none of that. Daly had to tell them to separate themselves even more to get better. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I’m so glad that I had.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Would you compare it to a seven-week all-star experience? Literally, everyone on that team was an all-star.

Andrew D. Bernstein: Yeah. That’s a great point. I would say that you’re probably right. It got a little weird in Monte Carlo. The crescendo of what this team was and how good they’ll be. That was in Portland. While in Monte Carlo it was like rock stars everywhere with all the glitz and glimmer of that. About time we got to Barcelona I remember when we pulled into the airport to the private terminal there was like hundreds of media waiting with fans behind barricades this was for an Olympic basketball team. This isn’t the Head of State or the Pope or even Michael Jackson. So it really kind of hit all of us, the players included, like wow this is really amazing.

They very smartly got the guys their own hotel in Barcelona the hotel was just for USA basketball the only problem was the guys were being questioned while in the hotel they really couldn’t go out even though Barkley tried his best to do that. Michael and Magic couldn’t do it, the big guys Robinson and Ewing couldn’t do it. But they made the best of it – they played cards, ping-pong hung out, friends would visit, having dinners it was really an incredible bonding experience that these guys still talk about. Magic still talks about that dream team experience as one of the greatest experiences of his life. What came out of that were lifelong relationships. My dad came over with me was a great father and son experience being around the team. Guys still ask me about my dad it’s pretty cool.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: I’m curious. I remember as a kid watching various documentaries from NBA entertainment seeing the shot of Michael just walking around Barcelona and then they’d widen the screen and then you saw his jump man logo. Were you called in sometimes to do personal photo shoots with them at times? How does that work? Walk me through that because that’s always been so fascinating to me.

Andrew D. Bernstein: Well that particular shoot I wasn’t on. I think the guys from NBA entertainment the producer somehow talked Michael into taking that walk to see that big mural. I kind of wish I was on that shoot. I don’t recall Michael going out much but he went out to play golf a lot. When we were in Monte Carlo probably the most beautiful golf course I’ve ever seen at the top of a mountain. I never heard people talk negatively about going out they took the basketball part of it very seriously. And they were playing games enjoying time together.

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