SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- It all started when Charles Barkley walked into a Basketball Hall of Fame function on Thursday and was preparing to meet Bob Boozer for the first time.
Barkley extended his hand for a greeting and soon was taken aback. You've got to realize it takes a lot for Barkley to be surprised.
"I said, 'We would have kicked your butts,''' was how Boozer said he greeted Sir Charles.
Boozer was on the 1960 U.S. Olympic team, which outscored foes 101.9-59.5 en route to the gold medal in Rome. Barkley was on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, known as the Dream Team, which outscored opponents 117.3-73 in Barcelona, an average victory margin of 43.8, which broke the record of 42.4 by the 1960 unit.
Both teams were scheduled to be inducted into the Hall of Fame here Friday night. Then there is another Hall of Fame function Saturday, which figures to make it three straight days of trash talking between the teams.
"I walked in and I'd never met (Boozer) before and he said (the 1960 team would beat the 1992 team),'' Barkley said Friday. "I just started laughing. It was in such good humor and fun. It was awesome. ... But I like our chances.''
At a roundtable discussion at a Hall of Fame dinner Thursday night, the two teams went at each other. Jerry Lucas, one of four Hall of Famers of the 1960 outfit -- while the 1992 team will be up to 10 Hall of Famers with Friday night's induction of Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen -- turned to Barkley and said, "I'm sitting next to a player who played on the second-best Olympic team.'''
That got Barkley going.
"First of all, nobody wearing Chuck Taylors can guard me,'' Barkley responded. "They always talk about breaking ankles. We would definitely be breaking ankles (of the 1960 Olympic team).''
Soon, Dream Teamer Larry Bird got into the act. He said the 1960 team played back when "they had no TVs" and pointed to a peach basket on display at the Hall of Fame and suggested that's what that team used.
"Charles and Larry want to put a peach basket on one end and a new basket on the other end and play them,'' Pippen said.
Hall of Fame weekend is usually a lot of fun, but the non-stop banter between the two greatest Olympic teams has livened it up even more. The main trash talkers for the 1992 team have been Barkley and Bird while Boozer, Lucas and Walt Bellamy have been the most vocal for the 1960 team.
During functions, Hall of Fame officials have been calling the 1960 unit, which featured college and AAU players, the greatest amateur Olympic team. It featured future Hall of Famers and NBA stars Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Lucas and Bellamy and four other eventual All-Star Game participants in Boozer, Terry Dischinger, Adrian Smith and Darrall Imhoff.
The 1992 team, the first in which pros could play Olympic hoops, has even more star power. Malone and Pippen are joining Dream Teamers Bird, Barkley, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton and Clyde Drexler in the Hall of Fame. And Chris Mullin has a shot of making it one day himself.
"Are you kidding me?'' Malone said when asked who would win if the 1960 and 1992 teams played in their primes. "We know about Oscar and Jerry (West). We would have double-teamed them. And Lucas ... I'm like Charles. I don't know if you're going to guard me in Chuck Taylors. They were great but I'm bias. I respect what they did... (But) we would have beaten them by 20. We might feel sorry for them (by not winning by more).''
But the 1960 players aren't backing down.
"We were amateurs and we played against many of the older Euopean teams,'' Boozer said. "They beat everybody by 43 or something points and we beat everybody by 42 but we were shooting with a soccer ball (which is how Boozer described the then-smaller international basketball) and we didn't have the three-point line. When you shot a long jumper, it would change directions.''
Boozer, despite his initial greeting to Barkley, later admitted it might have been tough for the 1960 team in its prime to beat the 1992 guys. But Bellamy didn't waver in which he believes was the better team.
"At whatever period in life we established, the 1960 Olympic team as amateurs would have won (against the 1992 team),'' Bellamy said.
Bellamy then was told that surely he meant the 1960 team would have won if the primes of the players could be matched up. After all, members of the 1960 team are generally between 20 and 30 years older than the 1992 players.
"I said at any point,'' Bellamy said. "I'm saying it again. I did not stutter.''
OK, how about right now?
"We've got a van with 12 pairs of (basketball) shoes in it,'' Bellamy said. "They didn't bring their shoes.''
Told Bellamy is ready to play his team right now, Bird, who retired with back problems following the 1992 Olympics, was gracious. "I'm going to sit this one out,'' he said.
Robinson, a consummate gentleman, hasn't been getting into the trash talking. But he said he's had a lot of fun the past few days "just listening to Charles'' banter with the 1960 players.
But Barkley doesn't always start it. When he showed up at the Hall of Fame on Friday morning, he was greeted by the spewing of stats by some 1960 players.
"They said they won every game by 30,'' Barkley said. "And I think we won every one by 45. They were like, 'We averaged 100 points a game.' I said, 'We averaged like 115 a game'. ... (Smith, the MVP of the 1967 All-Star Game) said, 'They got five All-Star MVPs.' I think we have 20.''
Time for some fact checking. The 1960 team did win its closest game by 24 while the 1992 unit won its closet by 32. And the 1960 team actually had six All-Star Game MVPs while the 1992 team had 11 if one gives credit to both Malone and Stockton for sharing the award in 1993 (10 if it counts as one award).
"We were too big for them. I just think that would be the key,'' Barkley said of the 1992 team being better due to having Ewing and Robinson while the 1960 team didn't feature a dominant center.
Nevertheless, it's all been fun to talk about during Hall of Fame week. And perhaps Lucas summed it up best.
"We think we would have won,'' he said of any hypothetical matchup. "They think they would have won.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson