On this day: Dream Team gold | 1996 Atlanta Olympics

Credit: Cox

Credit: Cox

Editor’s Note: This story was published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Aug. 4, 1996, as the U.S. men’s basketball team completed another undefeated journey to the Olympics medal podium. This is a daily take of the events that transpired on the 25th anniversary of the Games in Atlanta.

No stroll through the park this night for America’s mighty Dream Team.

Yes, they go home today with the gold medals everyone knew they would win. But the 95-69 triumph was assured only in the last minutes of a game packed with the drama and suspense heretofore missing for U.S. pros on the international stage.

Credit: JOHN SPINK

Credit: JOHN SPINK

Saturday night turned ugly as a mugging when Vlade Divac fouled Karl Malone early in the second half, Reggie Miller went to the Yugoslavian bench in a verbal confrontation and was shoved. Charles Barkley charged the bench before Lenny Wilkens caught up with him and order was restored.

Minutes later, with Miller exhorting the crowd to cheer, the U.S. used a 13-3 run to open a lead of 67-55 with 9:46 to play. Only then, was a favorable outcome virtually assured for the sellout crowd.

Divac fouled out with 15:26 to play and Barkley fouled out on a technical with 11:34 to play.

The U.S. rode David Robinson’s 28 points to the medal stand, Miller coming up big with 20, Penny Hardaway 17.

If the tournament was not popular with NBC, which showed very little of it, the fans apparently could not get enough.

In the tightly officiated game, Scottie Pippen was called for three personals and lost for the remainder of the first half after 1:58. Malone sat with two after 13:51. Barkley came in, was called for two fouls and waived to Wilkens to indicate that he should not be concerned.

Still, Yugoslavia led 21-14 and for the second straight game a U.S. team trailed by its greatest margin since the start of the pro era in 1992.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

When former San Antonio player Zarco Paspalj scored his 16th point, it was 34-29 Yugoslavia, and the U.S. had been out-shot from the foul line 14-3. The U.S. then shot nine straight from the line, but made only five, tying the game.

The U.S. got its first lead when Shaquille O’Neal scored inside, playing in tandem with Robinson for the first time in the tournament.

Day 15: No quit in Jackie Joyner-Kersee