Fantasy is a huge part of sports, with fans constantly daydreaming about what could their respective team do in order to stay competitive and become a legacy, or how would’ve things fared if something had or hadn’t happened before.
Throughout basketball history, there have been some little, yet key details that seemed to have changed the course of the league and how all pieces fell in the right spots at the right times, constantly leaving fans wondering how things would’ve gone otherwise.
Obviously, we can’t live out of mere dreams and fantasy, but today, we’re going to try and wonder how things would’ve looked like in the NBA if some things had gone different, letting you know about the top 10 What Ifs in NBA history.
10. What If Horry Missed The Buzzer Beater In The 2002 WCF
Just a couple of years after the 1st seeded Lakers beat the Kings in the 1st Round of the playoffs, both squads would’ve squared off once again in one of the most hard-nosed, entertaining and competitive series in NBA history; with the Kings looking like they were finally ready to take a stand and end the Lakers dominance, but once again Kobe, Shaq and Horry would prevail over Webber, Bibby, Divac and Stojakovic.
But, what if Robert Horry would’ve never been able to sink that last gasp three-pointer to take a 1 point victory in Game 4?
Sacramento would’ve taken an almost definitive 3-1 lead in the Series and most likely make it to the NBA Finals. Eventually, the Lakers would go on to win the Championship against the Nets, the last ring of the Shaq-Kobe era.
9. What If The Cavs Drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo
Following yet another embarrassing campaign, the Cleveland Cavaliers were once again entitled of the 1st overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, one of the thinnest and most disappointing classes in modern history, and one that saw Anthony Bennet go as the 1st draftee just to be passed around the league up to the point where he’s not even a part of a roster anymore.
The Milwaukee Bucks decided to go with an unknown skinny man out of Greece; Giannis Antetokounmpo; with the 15th overall pick, something most people thought was a crazy decision and a major reach. Needless to say, the Greek Freak proved them wrong, and perhaps they would’ve created an even more impressive dynasty next to Kyrie, with James set to come home anyways.
On a side note, they would’ve never landed Andrew Wiggins, so Kevin Love would’ve stayed with the Timberwolves.
8. What If The Warriors Hadn’t Beaten The Thunder
A couple of years ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder was on the verge of doing something nobody thought they could do: beat the mighty Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals after jumping out to an early 3-1 series lead and having entire control of their own fate led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Eventually, Kerr’s team would rise from their ashes to win the series in 7 games, but if the Thunder hadn’t choked, they would have gone to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals, not to mention Kevin Durant would have never bailed on the Thunder to join the very same team that embarrassed them in the playoffs, and his credibility and fan base wouldn’t have been so hurt.
Although, Westbrook would’ve never averaged a triple-double for a full season.
7. What If The Timberwolves Drafted Stephen Curry
Back in 2009, the Minnesota Timberwolves were entitled with 2 straight picks in the Draft, the 5th and 6th overall, and were looking to add some playmakers that could thrive next to Kevin Love, who was called out to become one of the league’s biggest stars and their franchise player; so they chose not one but two point guards in Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn.
Thing is, they could’ve just taken Stephen Curry and basketball history would’ve been completely different by now, either if he played off the ball next to a good defender and playmaker in Rubio, or even if he was the team’s lone point guard. Also, they could’ve used that 6th pick to get someone like DeMar DeRozan, while we would’ve never witnessed this dominant Golden State Warriors.
6. What If OKC’s Big 3 Hadn’t Broken Up
The Seattle/Oklahoma franchise had done a terrific scouting job, landing Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and James Harden via draft en route to making an incredibly young and dynamic squad that would eventually go on to make the NBA Finals, losing against LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
James Harden was a major no-show during the Finals and Sam Presti was forced to make a decision during the summer, choosing Serge Ibaka as their most important piece between the two of them and sending their former 6th Man of the Year to the Houston Rockets.
Had this never happened, we would’ve witnessed a Westbrook, Harden, Durant trio dominate the West for years, with two of them already winning MVPs and the other a lock to take it home this time.
5. What If Charlotte Didn’t Trade Kobe Bryant
Some young and new NBA fans maybe don’t know this, but Kobe Bryant was actually taken 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, being almost immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers as Jerry West was keen to acquire his services for the long run, even if that meant to part ways with their longtime veteran big man Vlade Divac.
Kobe was kind of a late bloomer but once he settled himself as a starter, he never slowed down and went on to become one of the most dominant and talented competitors in the history of sports, something that may have never happened if he stayed put at Charlotte, where he could’ve gotten to a faster start but would’ve never won a ring or become the greatest player in Lakers history.
4. What If The Pistons Drafted Carmelo Anthony
Back in 2003, the Detroit Pistons made arguably the biggest mistake they’ve done in their Draft history, drafting Darko Milicic with the 2nd overall pick on a class that also featured Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, who would eventually go third to the Denver Nuggets to become one of the league’s greatest scorers ever.
While Milicic would go on to be a non-factor on the Pistons’ last Championship squad, Carmelo never had the chance to even make it to the NBA Finals.
Had Detroit drafted Anthony, they would’ve landed one of the most prolific and consistent scorers this game has ever seen and would’ve been Championship contenders for years to come.
3. What If David Stern Hadn’t Vetoed The Chris Paul Trade
Chris Paul was keen to get the hell out of the New Orleans Hornets and finally make it at least to the NBA Finals, but with the league having pretty much all control of the team’s operations, David Stern vetoed a move to the Los Angeles Lakers stating that it would hurt the league’s competitiveness, and even though he may have been right to do so, it’s still a huge bummer we never got the chance to see this.
Paul eventually winds up going to the Clippers while the Lakers landed a borderline washed and constantly injured Steve Nash. Had Paul gone to LA, he would’ve played next to Kobe and have arguably the most dominant hardnosed backcourt in all of the Association, not to mention they would’ve never had to trade for Dwight Howard and lose that many picks for nothing. Also, Nash would’ve finished his career at Phoenix, while CP3 could be a Champion by now.
2. What If Derrick Rose Had Never Gotten Injured
Rose took the league for assault right out of the gate, coming as the 1st overall pick to his hometown Chicago Bulls en route to an impressive Rookie of the Year campaign, just to become even more dominant year after year and winning the MVP award after leading Chicago to the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference.
Sadly, his ACL tear ended not just Chicago’s hopes in the playoffs, but pretty much his career. Rose had played all 82 games during his first 3 seasons, and his outstanding offensive play had made him the most aggressive and dominant scoring guard in the league by a long shot.
If he hadn’t gotten hurt, perhaps Chicago would’ve gone the distance and win the Championship, while Derrick would’ve won at least 1 more MVP.
1. What If Kobe And Shaq Had Played Together Until The End
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal played together for the Los Angeles Lakers for 8 straight seasons from 1996 to 2004, winning three straight Championships from 2000 to 2002 as one of the league’s most dominant tandems ever; but constant personal differences between both stars wind up developing a major feud that eventually saw Shaq leave the team after losing the Finals vs Detroit.
Shaq would go on to play for the Suns, Celtics, Cavs and Heat, where he was able to win another Championship next to Dwyane Wade, while Kobe would win a couple more rings next to Pau Gasol.
If Shaq stayed, the Lakers would’ve never needed to trade for Pau and would’ve stayed competitive for at least 5 more straight seasons, but we may have never been able to witness the superlative Kobe Bryant that would win the MVP and score 81 points on a game.
And of course, the biggest ‘what if’ is: