While their comments may have suggested that Jordan has a dollar sign where his heart should be, and Robinson was feeling alienated as usual among his earthier peers and Pippen's manners need as much work as his jump shot, they were penny-ante breaches of decorum next to the exploits of Barkley, 255 pounds of Ugly American on a world stage.
Barkley poked his snout between Jordan and Johnson into center stage, setting the tone for what was to come by elbowing a 176-pound Angolan in the opener. Matched against players he overmatched in size and ability, he still had to make sure they knew who he was and who they weren't.
Embarrassed teammates criticized him throughout the competition. "Of course, what he does rubs off on us," Johnson said. "People look at him and think, 'They're all like that.'
"Nothing you can do but hope he doesn't go overboard. The thing is, Charles is a good person if you know him.
"Well, they don't. We know him. They don't."
After that came a new phase: Barkley got heavy.
Sounding like a man who had spent one too many nights out with Spike Lee, Barkley responded to LeRoy Walker's comments with a lecture to the media on the more pressing problems of race and poverty.
Barkley also confided in midweek that he was tired of the Olympics.
As final proof of how madly the world loves this team, it isn't even offended by Barkley.
"To me he is brilliant," said Thierry Bretagne of the French basketball magazine \o7 5 Majeur \f7 (Starting 5). "A movie has a good guy and a bad guy. If everyone was like David Robinson and Clyde Drexler, it would be boring."
By now, everyone on the team could stand some boredom of the Stateside variety.
So, we approach the ultimate moment, eager to see if our superstars can stay awake one more night, curious to see if Jordan dares snub the flag on worldwide TV, hoping the U.S. government lifts Barkley's passport as soon as he gets home and wondering if all this was really necessary.
I'm with LeRoy Walker on this one, but we're up against it.