By Larry Fine
LONDON (Reuters) - The star-studded U.S. Olympic men's basketball team would rather not be given the "Dream Team" label, preferring instead to earn their own identity as gold medal winners once the London Games are over.
Plenty of talk surrounding the team, which is loaded with top talent from the National Basketball Association (NBA), has been how they compare to the original U.S. Dream Team from the 1992 Games that included 11 future Hall of Fame players.
"Dream Team? We don't compare us to them," LeBron James said on Friday at a jam-packed news conference. "They were a great team and we feel like we could become a great team and that's the end of it."
The Americans are overwhelming favorites to repeat their 2008 Beijing Games triumph in the men's tournament that begins Sunday, but they are not underestimating the challenge brought by other teams in the 12-nation field.
Spain, runners-up in Beijing, 2004 champions Argentina, Brazil and France, who face the United States on Sunday, all boast abundant talent from the NBA and a cohesiveness that could worry the Americans.
Despite a team that includes such notables as James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski dismissed comparisons to the 1992 team of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird that launched the era of NBA players competing in the Olympics.
"We don't consider ourselves a Dream Team. We consider ourselves the United States team. I think there was only one Dream Team," said Krzyzewski, who was an assistant coach for the 1992 U.S. team in Barcelona.
That team swept through their eight games with an average winning margin of 43 points But the U.S. coach said the level of competition has since gotten stiffer.
"It's much tougher now than it was in 2008," Krzyzewski said. "And it will be tougher in 2016, because the world keeps getting better.
"We have to prepare very hard and we know we can be beaten. And we prepare that way."
A record total of 38 NBA players are featured on national team rosters at the 2012 Games, 10 more than in 2008. Another 16 former NBA players are also on squads.
Aside from the U.S. team, France has the most NBA players with six including San Antonio Spurs playmaker Tony Parker, who Krzyzewski called "one of the great point guards in the world."
Parker's availability had been in doubt after he suffered an eye injury in a New York City nightclub fracas, but he has been cleared to play wearing protective goggles.
Spain is next with five players, including a towering trio of frontcourt talent in Los Angeles Lakers' Pao Gasol, his brother, Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Brazil and Argentina, who are led by the Spurs' Manu Ginobili, both feature four NBA players on their rosters.
Krzyzewski respects the opposition, but does not downplay the ability of his team. The Duke University coach said his team is far superior to any single NBA club.
"No NBA team can keep up the level of our team," the coach said. "Look who we have coming off our bench in Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony.
Starting U.S. point guard Chris Paul said he and team mates have wondered what it would be like to play together in the NBA.
"We joked about what it would be if this was an NBA team for a year," said Paul. "How many games would we lose? There might be one or two off-nights. But everybody can't be off on the same night, not on this team."
Krzyzewski has a 54-1 record since taking over as national team coach in 2006 following the U.S. bronze medal showing at the 2004 Athens Games.
That led the 2008 U.S. team to become known as the "Redeem Team."
"We never gave ourselves that name," James said. "The media gave us that name. No one's given us a name, so we don't have one."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)