The MCU’s latest show ‘What if…?’ explores alternate realities and new timelines in the Marvel Universe. But what are some of the great ‘What if…?’ scenarios from NBA history that would have completely changed the league as we know it?
NBA History “What If” Questions
What if…Chris Paul had been traded to the Lakers?
In 2011, the Los Angeles Lakers were primed to make a trade for then New Orleans Hornets star point guard Chris Paul. Here are the details of the trade:
Los Angeles Lakers: PG Chris Paul (from Hornets)
New Orleans Hornets: F Lamar Odom (from Lakers), SG Kevin Martin (from Rockets), PF Luis Scola (from Rockets), PG Goran Dragic (from Rockets)
Houston Rockets: PF Pau Gasol (from Lakers)
The NBA held a majority stake in the team at the time, so David Stern essentially canceled the trade. Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers just a couple of days later. But “What if…?” he had teamed up with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard instead?
What if… Draymond Green was not suspended for Game 5?
We all remember the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals for their historic victory, despite being down 3-1 in the series. Few remember that in the series-clinching Game 5 in Oracle Arena, Draymond Green was unable to suit up for the Golden State Warriors. Green received a Flagrant 1 in Game 4 and was therefore suspended for Game 5. In that game, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combined for 82 points, and the momentum of the series shifted completely in favor of the Cavaliers.
The 2016 NBA Finals marked the first title in Cleveland in 50 years. LeBron’s legacy was also immortalized for delivering on his promise to bring Cleveland a championship. But what if Draymond Green played in Game 5 to win the 2016 NBA Finals?
What if… Michael Jordan never retired (the first time)
October 6, 1993 was perhaps the most impactful day in NBA history. Michael Jordan announced his retirement from basketball after the unexpected passing of his father. Rumors swirled around the sudden announcement and the circumstances surrounding James Jordan’s death. Michael Jordan shocked the world again on February 7, 1994, when he announced his plans to pursue a professional career in baseball. Jordan never saw an MLB game for the White Sox’s Double-A minor league team.
In Jordan’s two-season hiatus, the Houston Rockets won back-to-back NBA titles.
On March 18, 1995, Jordan once again rocked headlines with a two-word press release: “I’m back.” Jordan and the Chicago Bulls went on to win yet another three-peat. But what if Jordan had never retired the first time? Would he still have an undefeated record in the NBA Finals?
What if… Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal didn’t feud?
The Kobe-Shaq duo is perhaps the most dominant duo in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers dominated the late 90s and early 2000s due to Shaquille O’Neal possessing a monopoly of the paint, which allowed for Kobe to score at any level he wanted. The Lakers are the last team to ever pull of a three-peat in NBA history. However, winning did not cure all for Kobe and Shaq who famously did not get along.
Kobe Bryant worked hard each offseason to get better. Shaq, on the other hand, spent his offseason partying. In a one-on-one conversation, Shaq admitted to Kobe that he partied each offseason because he knew Kobe was working hard enough for the both of them.
The two parted ways after the 2003-04 season, which ended in a 1-4 NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons. How many more titles would this team have won if the chemistry between their two superstars had been better? What if Shaq had never left the Lakers at all?
What if… Derrick Rose was never injured?
When you opened this article, you must have known this would be discussed. In 2008-09, Derrick Rose won Rookie of the Year with the Chicago Bulls. In 2010-11, he won the NBA MVP award, using his speed, ferocity attacking the rim, and his ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Rose had quickly risen to the pinnacle of stars in the league, appearing in three All-Star Games and earning All-NBA First Team in 2010-11.
However, in the 2011-12 playoffs, Rose tore his ACL in a Game 1 matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers. Rose missed the 2012-13 season.
Unfortunately, things did not get better for Rose, who tore his meniscus on November 22, 2013. He would re-tear the same meniscus in February of 2015. Derrick Rose went from being the best young star in the NBA to a journeyman in a matter of three years. Rose will forever be one of the all-time great “What if…?” stories in NBA history.