It's a magic night for charity game NBA stars provide glimpse of '92 team

August 24, 1991|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

LANDOVER -- Dribbling through three defenders, Magic Johnson made a blind pass to Lionel Simmons for an uncontested layup, and the spectators jumped to their feet and exchanged high-fives.

Moments later, Charles Barkley threw the ball high off the backboard and followed it for a thundering slam dunk.

Chris Mullin grabbed a rebound and threw the ball over his head to a streaking Rumeal Robinson for a breakaway basket.

These were a few of the highlights in the "Magic For The Dreamers" midsummer night's charity basketball game for underprivileged students that attracted a crowd of 12,003 to the Capital Centre.

Close your eyes, and fast-forward to Barcelona, Spain, for the 1992 Olympic Games where Johnson, Barkley and Mullin likely will be part of the national team that will try to re-establish the United States as basketball's supreme power.

"I like the idea of restricting the international basketball competition to players 22 or under," said Johnson, who joined the Los Angeles Lakers a year before the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics. "But under the current format, we'd better send an NBA All-Star team if we want to win the gold again."

Asked if a carefully selected squad of college All-Americans could not beat the best teams the rest of the world has to offer, Johnson said: "That used to be the case, but the Europeans have closed the gap, especially the Yugoslavs, who can put together a team of four NBA players, led by [Lakers] Vlade Divac and [New Jersey's] Drazen Petrovic.

"We could beat the Europeans before because they tried to overpower us. But now they've learned to play the transition game like the NBA and they also shoot the lights out."

Johnson, who led the effort to put on the charity game that raised more than $100,000 for Washington-area students, said the international basketball committee favored the inclusion of NBA players in the Olympics.

"They want to make basketball the sport to watch worldwide," he said. "They figure that two or three years after we play in the Olympics, basketball will eclipse soccer as the most popular sport."

Barkley, who scored a game-high 28 points last night to lead his team to a 193-169 victory in a racehorse contest devoid of HTC defense, missed the 1984 Olympics when he was cut by Indiana coach Bob Knight.

"I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone," said the Philadelphia 76ers All-NBA forward. "I didn't deserve to make the team, and Knight is a great coach. This time I'll be happy to play in the Olympics whether I start or not."

Johnson, who helped persuade Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan to change his mind about competing in the 1992 Games, said he also was hopeful that his rival and close friend, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, would also be selected.

"I think Larry hesitated at first because he preferred people to remember the younger Larry Bird," Johnson said. "But Larry deserves to play in the Olympics and we need his type of leadership. We've got a lot of guys who can drive to the basket, but we need Larry's outside shooting to break it open.

"Jordan? I convinced him he could play golf between basketball games."

Johnson was the unquestioned crowd favorite last night. He called the game with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining on the clock to begin a crowd-pleasing round of slam dunks, and no one protested.

Point guard Michael Adams, making his first appearance in Washington since being re-acquired by the Bullets in a June trade with the Denver Nuggets, made only two of nine shots, but showed how effective he can be leading the break in getting 12 assists.

When he looked up at halftime and saw his team leading, 106-88, Adams said, "It looks like I'm still in Denver."

Bullets forward Bernard King was a late scratch. His wife, Collette, underwent minor surgery in New Jersey yesterday.

Baltimore Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson was the losing coach, but there was no talk of being fired this time.

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