My favorite column from Bill Simmons, the sportswriter whom I read the most, is his “What If” NBA column from 2008, in which he outlines 15 of the biggest chains of events in recent NBA history. Here, I’m doing my own “What If” column with an example from each of the four main professional sports.
What if the Boston Bruins had not completed that miracle comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs last May?
On May 13, 2013, the heavily favored Boston Bruins were down 4-1 in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then, the Bruins scored three goals in the final 11 minutes, including two with their goalie pulled, and they went on to win in overtime. Hockey fans seem to remember this game as just another example of a good team like the Bruins getting the better of the cursed Toronto Maple Leafs. However, that is not accurate.
Their biggest weakness under the coaching of Claude Julien, who took over in 2007, was that they would not play to their potential at times, and they had apparently done it again. Had the Bruins lost, General Manager Peter Chiarelli would have had to reconstruct the team and possibly fire Julien in order to keep his own job.
But the Bruins pulled off the miracle, and after a heartbreaking loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, they rebounded to finish with the best record in the 2013-2014 regular season. During the offseason, the Bruins did not make many moves. In fact, they only signed Jarome Iginla, who tied for their leading goal scorer this season. The Bruins are projected to be a perennial contender for the next half-decade, and the jobs for both Julien and Chiarelli seem safe. All because of the miracle comeback.
What if the Miami Dolphins had signed Drew Brees instead of Daunte Culpepper in 2006?
The fact that the Dolphins signed Cuplepper over Brees, who signed a $100 million contract in 2012, made a lot of sense at the time. Culpepper seemed to have something left in the tank, while Brees was coming off a shoulder tear.
Really, this could be titled “What if Dr. James Andrews was never born?” because orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrews has saved more athletes’ careers than you could imagine. If he hadn’t saved Brees, Brees would have never led the Saints to the 2009 Super Bowl, and Saints Head Coach Sean Payton likely wouldn’t have been coaching the Saints long enough to be suspended for the bounty scandal in 2012.
Therefore, Roger Goodell wouldn’t have suffered what might be the biggest knock on his resume when some of the suspensions from the scandal were overturned. More people have been affected by the Dolphins’ decision than we realize.
What if Oklahoma City hadn’t traded James Harden a year and a half ago?
Think about this: The Oklahoma City Thunder had three American Olympians at the 2012 Summer Olympics, and they were aged 23, 23 and 22 (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, respectively). But Thunder owner Clay Bennett was incredibly cheap and General Manager Sam Presti was overconfident, and the Thunder traded Harden for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and three draft picks.
Martin left after a year, Lamb looks like a bust and none of the draft picks will likely make a difference for the Thunder. Oklahoma City still earned a top two seed in the West in both 2013 and 2014, but they are no longer expected to be a dynasty. As Simmons is fond of saying, you should never trade paper for coins in the NBA, and the Thunder made that colossal mistake. And they’ll be paying for it for the next few years.
What if Rodriguez’s trade to the Red Sox had never been blocked? Rodriguez, largely known for being selfish, was actually willing to give up $28 million in salary in order to join the Red Sox from the Texas Rangers before the 2004 season. However, the MLBPA, one of the world’s strongest unions, told Rodriguez that he couldn’t sacrifice more than $13 million. The deal fell through, he was then traded to the Yankees, and now he’s the Rodriguez that you know.
First, there wouldn’t have been the Red Sox’s improbable comeback over the Yankees en route to their World Series Championship in 2004. Rodriguez is now hated everywhere, and, despite having two MVP seasons in New York, has earned far more money than he’s been worth.
He never would have moved to third base for the Red Sox, and he and Derek Jeter probably also wouldn’t have seen their friendship collapse. If Rodriguez wasn’t so hated, it’s also possible that MLB wouldn’t have come down so harshly on him this winter, because it’d be hard to suspend a widely respected player for a whole season. In fairness to Rodriguez, though, I also have to mention that the Yankees might not have won the 2009 World Series without Rodriguez’s six home runs and .500 on-base percentage in the playoffs.
Tom Hoff is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. This is the final appearance of Down to the Wire.