THE 34,000 crowd throbbed to the beat of Bruce Springsteen's 'Glory Days'. Olympic trivia flashed on the huge screen and fans all around the Georgia Dome played spot the celebrity. Meanwhile, in the middle, a basketball game broke out. What is it about basketball that has taken a stranglehold on the world, overtaking in popularity even soccer, according to one survey? What is it about the American sports culture that it could seize a game like lawn bowls, add music, coloured uniforms, slickly-produced half-hour TV programmes with hyperactive commentators and turn it into a billion-dollar industry? But the most pressing question to come out of the Dream Team v China game was, what is it about slam dunks? The basketball hoop is 10 feet off the ground, according to the pamphlet. Shaquille O'Neal is seven-foot one-inch tall. With arms outstretched above his head he is approximately 10-foot tall. O'Neal launches himself a dizzying 12 inches into the air, whacks the ball with both arms, full force, into the basket. He then hangs on to the rim with bended knees for a few seconds before triumphantly letting go with an 'attitood' and dropping to the floor. The crowd go wild. Pay that man US$120 million! David Robinson, San Antonio's MVP two seasons ago, receives the ball, unguarded, under the Chinese hoop. He shakes off two imaginary defenders, bamboozles a Chinese player standing 15 feet behind him with a deft feint, jumps all of 18 inches and slam dunks. The crowd go wild. Scottie Pippen slam dunks. The crowd go wild. Consider Turkish weightlifting sensation Naim Suleymanoglu, at four-foot 11-inches probably the most morphically-challenged male athlete at the Atlanta Olympics. Would the 'pocket Hercules' draw gasps from the crowd if he were to slam dunk on a hoop only, say, seven feet off the ground? And how do primary school PE teachers coach 10-year-olds to slam dunk? Are there mini-sized goals for tots whose childhood ambitions are to one day win the rookie dunking competition during All-Star week?. Even US vice-president Al Gore isn't impressed. He leaves at half-time. His 30-odd friends, many wearing earpieces which are probably tuned to commentary of the US men's 4 ? 100 metres medley world record swim, follow him out. The crowd go wild. But apart from Gore, a good time is had by all. Charles Barkley is not in the squad for the game but still proves a hit with the crowd. During one time-out, he bops to 'YMCA', using arm signals to recreate the letters as the fans sing the chorus. On the resumption of play, the Dome bellows pleas of 'We want Barkley!'. To be fair, there were some exquisite moves mixed into the litany of errors committed by the Dream Team, who many fans believe are not a patch on their Barcelona prototypes. In one move, Gary Payton flicked the ball daintily over the head of a Chinese player. O'Neal soared into the air and looked like he was floating for a couple of seconds before caressing the ball into the sock. Take a move like that, multiply it several times, and you get an idea of the day-to-day workings of the NBA. Dream Team versus China just does not compare. By the way, USA won 133-70. The crowd went wild.