As sports fans, we love talking about the past. This is especially true for me, considering my Redskins haven’t been relevant since the ’80s and ’90s. However, many fans would rather talk about the “what-ifs” than what happened when talking about the past. There are many painful losses and single plays throughout sports history that significantly impacted the sports world’s landscape. “The Catch,” the “Hand of God Goal,” and the Cavaliers 3-1 comeback in the Finals are just a few of the greatest moments in sports history. Although these events did happen, what if some of them did not? How would the landscape of modern sports look today? In this article, I’m going to be outlining my top 5 biggest “what-if” moments in sports history and what could’ve happened had these events transpired.
1. Drew Bledsoe never gets injured
During Week 2 of the 2001 NFL, New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe was hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, resulting in a sheared blood vessel in his chest. This injury would cause Bledsoe to head to the locker room, making way for 2nd-year backup Tom Brady to take his place. At the time, Brady was 24 years old and was a 6th round pick out of Michigan the previous season. No one knew anything about this kid, but little did the league know that Bledsoe’s injury would ultimately change the course of the NFL forever. Brady would go on to take the starting position from Bledsoe and lead the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title that season. Had Bledsoe never gone down with his injury in Week 2, would Brady still have taken his job? Had this never happened, would the Patriots have become one of the greatest dynasties in sports history? This is easily the biggest what-if in NFL history and perhaps all of sports history.
2. Michael Jordan continues to play baseball
After winning his third straight NBA Championship with the Bulls in 1993, Michael Jordan was seemingly on top of the world. He was the biggest basketball star in the world, garnering media attention and sponsorship opportunities everywhere he went. However, Jordan shocked the sports world when he abruptly retired at the age of 30 to pursue a career in Minor League Baseball. Jordan wanted to play baseball as a way to honor his dad, as it was his late father’s favorite sport. He would play for one season with the Birmingham Barons, the AA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Jordan certainly wasn’t playing at a “GOAT” status in the minors, but some believed that he could’ve eventually made the big leagues had he continued to play baseball. Jordan would return to basketball after one season in baseball and would lead the Bulls to three more NBA Championships. Had Jordan continued to play baseball and not return to the NBA, would he still be considered the best player of all time?
3. Red Sox never trade Babe Ruth to the Yankees
We had to turn back the clock quite a bit for this what-if scenario, but it certainly was worth mentioning with some of the biggest what-ifs of all time. As some don’t realize, Yankees legend Babe Ruth actually began his career with their rival, the Boston Red Sox. He was emerging as a star in the league and was a player with a lot of potential. However, the Red Sox needed some cash at the time, so they traded Ruth to the Yankees in exchange for $125,000. This would go back to haunt Boston, as Ruth would go on to play 15 years in New York, winning four World Series titles and sparked the beginning of perhaps one of the best organizations in professional sports. On the other hand, the Red Sox would go on an 86-year championship drought. Had the Sox never traded Ruth, would they have had such a bad drought? Would the Yankees have become the powerhouse franchise that they are today?
4. Len Bias never dies
Considered by many at the time to be one of the best NBA prospects ever, Len Bias was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 2nd overall pick in 1986 NBA Draft. Bias was a star at the University of Maryland, being named ACC Player of the Year twice and was a 1st Team All-American his senior year. In his head to head matchups with Michael Jordan, he was often considered the best player on the floor. The 6’8 210lb forward was supposed to be the heir to Larry Bird for the Celtics. However, tragedy struck just hours after he was drafted. Bias was celebrating with some friends back at College Park when he had a seizure after he was given cocaine for the first time. There were no other drugs or alcohol in his system at the time. It was an unforeseen tragedy that could’ve easily been prevented. The story of Len Bias raises the question: Would he have been the heir to Larry Bird for the Celtics? Would he have become an all-time great player like many experts predicted he could become?
5. Gordon Hayward’s buzzer-beater goes in
Now, I might be biased on this one, as I am currently a student at Butler University. However, the ending of the 2010 NCAA Championship Game certainly deserves some discussion. Butler, a small school in Indianapolis from the Horizon League, had made it all the way to the Final Four. They would face the Duke Blue Devils in the championship game, led by Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer. With the entire country on their side, Butler was taking it to Duke in the final game. It was a close game until the last buzzer. With 3.6 seconds left, Duke center Brian Zoubek misses a free throw, and Butler star Gordon Hayward grabs a rebound. He dribbled up to half court and released a heave towards the rim as time expired. The shot hit the backboard and the rim but sadly bounced out, giving Duke the national title. Butler was inches from immortality and had that shot fallen, the Bulldogs would’ve cemented the greatest March Madness run of all time.