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The 7 Biggest What if’s in NBA History

Biggest what if's in NBA history!
Publish Date: 08/24/2022
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa
PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 12: Portland Trail Blazers guard Isaiah Rider(L) and center Arvydas Sabonis(R) celebrate their team's victory in game three of the first round NBA Western Conference playoff series over the Phoenix Suns 12 May 1999 in Phoenix, AZ. The Trail Blazers defeated the Suns 103-93 to win the best-of-five series 3-0. (Photo credit should read JASON WISE/AFP via Getty Images)

1) What if the NBA never vetoed the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers?

A little over a decade ago, a blockbuster deal blocked by the NBA would have tipped the balance of power in the Western Conference and possibly the entire NBA. The Lakers, who had won back-to-back championships, agreed to a trade for Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. Paul was considered the best point guard in the league at the time. Commissioner David Stern ran the team as the NBA waited for someone to buy the franchise. Paul would probably have a ring, and many Western Conference teams may not have championships. Also, Kobe would have possibly tied M.J. with six rings, enhancing his legacy. Check out the best basketball betting sites.

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2) What if the malice at the palace doesn’t happen?

This is a big one if you are a Pacers fan as this may have been the best Pacers team ever, and the brawl destroyed the Pacers chances of winning it all. The Pacers consisted of Ron Artest, Reggie Miller, a young monster at center Jermaine O’Neal, and one of the deepest benches in the league. Without the Malice at the Palace, the Pacers would have possibly beaten the Pistons and been battling the Spurs in the Finals. Reggie Miller could have perhaps ended his career with that elusive ring.

3) What if Bill Walton had stayed healthy?

In the history of the NBA, many players could have this said about their careers; this will be the only one brought up in this article because this is the most glaring one. Bill Walton may have been the best center in basketball history, but a run of injuries starting in 1978 reduced him to playing occasionally. In all actuality, he had one healthy season in 1986, and he was still a dominant player for the Celtics. But you have to wonder what happens if the injuries never come? I think it’s safe to assume the Blazers may have won at least another title or two because Walton was that good. Plus, we would have gotten to watch a healthy Walton against Kareem Abdul Jabbar for a decade.

4) What if Len Bias had not died?

For my money, the greatest team in NBA history was the 1986 Boston Celtics and headed into 1987; they were the favorites to repeat. Injuries slowly took a great team, and in just a few short years, the Celtic dynasty was gone. Bias is the one man that could have possibly saved it. Even with all of the injuries Boston suffered, they still made it to the finals losing in six games to the Lakers. I don’t think it’s beyond the possibility that a young, healthy Bias couldn’t have made an impact on that series. He definitely could have helped out in the ensuing years as the Celtics got older and older.

5) What if Arvydas Sabonis came over in the 1980s?

Upon reviewing, Sabonis and Julius Erving are the most galling what-ifs regarding the style of basketball at the time they were playing. Quite simply, young Sabonis and young Erving were transcendent, almost revolutionary types of players in some ways; only Sabonis was hobbled entirely by the time he was finally with Portland, so we never got to see the full stylistic impact he could’ve had on the game. Imagine Sabonis on the Blazers of the late 80s and early 90s. Sabonis did come over at the end of his career and did play well with Portland, but what if a young Sabonis came over in the 80s? Maybe the Pistons lose in 90, and hell, perhaps the Bulls don’t win three straight? You may laugh, but Sabonis was that good, and the Bulls would not have had an answer for him.

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6) What if Cedric Ceballos was healthy in the ’93 Finals

Ceballos was a difference-maker, and the Bulls beat the Suns in 6, but it was a tight series, and if you throw Ceballos in the mix, it could have changed everything. If you think I am crazy, let me add that Ceballos led the league in field goal percentage that year and was a legit scorer. Check out the best basketball betting strategies for betting on the NBA.

7) What if the Suns had won the coin toss to select Lew Alcindor

Of course, they didn’t, but what if they did? Sure he led the Bucks to an NBA title before forcing a trade to Los Angeles. Kareem in Phoenix would have been fascinating; remember, the Suns were an excellent team by the mid-70s, including losing in the Finals to Boston in 1976. Maybe Kareem doesn’t demand a trade to L.A. If he’s in Phoenix, we will never know, but it could have changed everything.

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