Chris Mullin, left, and Charles Barkley rejoice with their gold medals after beating Croatia 117-85 at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. The team is the focus of Jack McCallum’s new best-selling book.

Jack McCallum guarded Atlantic City High School great Edgar Allen during a 1960s high school basketball game.

McCallum played for Oakcrest. The scouting report said Allen would only go left.

"The guy went by me to the right so fast the first time he had the ball I said, 'This isn't going to work well.' " McCallum said.

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McCallum, a 1967 Oakcrest graduate, also played against future NBA player Chris Ford, who then starred for Holy Spirit.

"I remember the night I played against him. I had six (points)," McCallum said. "Chris had 37."

McCallum calls his high-school basketball career average. Still, McCallum is a member of the Oakcrest Wall of Fame.

One look at today's best-seller list reveals why.

McCallum, 62, is the author "Dream Team" - the book that tells the story of the 1992 U.S. men's Olympic basketball team that featured Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

The book has been among the Amazon Top 100 since it was released July 10. Some days it has even challenged "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "The Hunger Games" for the top spot among books.

"That's seriously mind-blowing," McCallum said.

McCallum was born in Atlantic City and grew up in Mays Landing. After graduation from Oakcrest, he attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. He joined Sports Illustrated in 1981. McCallum covered the NBA for the magazine during the league's most popular period - the rise of Bird, Johnson and Jordan. He won the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.

He covered the Dream Team in Barcelona.

"I was lucky enough to be on the train," he said. "Most people weren't. There's only four to five people that could have done the book. That was my guiding principal - I was along for the ride; hopefully I can open this up to you and you can enjoy it through my eyes."

But the book wasn't his idea. A Random House editor suggested it.

"My reaction was, 'Why the heck didn't I think of this?' " McCallum said.

Quite a project

The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona was the first time NBA players were allowed to participate in the Olympics. McCallum's book details the how and why of that decision (it was the idea of a Yugoslavian meat inspector).

McCallum interviewed all 12 Dream Team players. Arranging those interviews was tougher than the writing. One doesn't just telephone Jordan and expect him to the answer the phone.

"That becomes the agita in your stomach from the moment you sign the contract," McCallum said. "What you're talking about is (interviewing) the most famous guys in the world."

McCallum eventually interviewed Jordan in the offices of the Charlotte Bobcats, the NBA team Jordan owns. McCallum described himself as giddy after the interview.

"It was so important to get him," McCallum said. "He's so elusive. Not only did I get him, but he was great."

The book is filled with insights on the players. Jordan reflects on his father's murder in 1993. Bird brags about his prowess as a badminton player. There is a detailed account of a legendary intrasquad scrimmage in which Jordan and Johnson squared off as leaders of their respective teams. There are tales of Charles Barkley's late-night Barcelona antics and his unusual blackjack strategy (he hit on 19 in a Monaco casino).

There is plenty of inside information to tell because the Dream Team existed before there were cell phones with cameras, before Twitter and before hourly Internet updates.

McCallum wrote just three stories for Sports Illustrated on the team during the Olympics.

"The written record of these guys from that time is not that large," McCallum said. "These days, if Barkley went out at night there would be 10,000 tweets about it. There was an air of mystery about these guys."

The book's success shows how much the Dream Team has resonated with basketball fans. This is its 20th anniversary. There was a brief debate last week about which U.S. team was better - the 1992 version or this year's. Everyone except for 2012 team member Kobe Bryant seems to side with 1992.

The 1992 team's popularity is remarkable, considering that Bird and Johnson haven't played in 20 years and Jordan retired in 2003.

"When these guys were playing," McCallum said, "they weren't just the top basketball players. At that point in our sporting culture, they were the top guys. ... They've just endured."

McCallum lives in Bethlehem, Pa., but vacations in Stone Harbor.

"Nobody who was ever brought up down there ever leaves the Jersey Shore," McCallum said.

He headed to London this past weekend with wife Donna for a vacation before he covers the 2012 Summer Games for NBC's Olympic website.

But for all his travels, McCallum always will be identified as a basketball guy.

In many ways, McCallum was the perfect journalist to write a book about the Dream Team. It's the exclamation point on the basketball era he covered for Sports Illustrated.

He is also part of southern New Jersey's basketball legacy. Plaques at Oakcrest and the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., prove it.

Not bad for a self-described "Mays Landing kid."

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