NBA Alternate History: “What If?” Scenarios That Change the Game

NBA Alternate History: “What If?” Scenarios That Change the Game

Sports statistics represent the concrete historical evidence of what actually happened. When you scan the official records of NBA statistical databases, you know for a fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers were the 2016 NBA Champions. You can 100% verify that the San Antonio Spurs have won 5 championship belts under Greg Popovich, or that Shaquille O’Neal has somehow won fewer MVP awards (1) than Steve Nash (2). When basketball fans inevitably ask their friend, “Who do you have in your all-time top 10?”, various honors such as championships, Defensive Player of the Year awards, All-NBA selections and win shares are used to make the case for why you rate Player X over Player Y.

As much as we all love statistics, including yours truly, it is also accurate to say that “history is written by the winners.” For example, we revere in the amazing accomplishments of the mighty conqueror Alexander the Great… because he won. However, do you think any significant written accounts remain from those lesser-known massacred civilizations who fell by his sword? Of course not. Those records were tossed aside and replaced with a romantic write-up of Alexander’s accomplishments. How do we know for sure if he was actually Great, or Not-So-Great? Regardless, there still remains an interesting story to be told from the perspective of the losing side.

So in that vein, I find it meaningful and vastly interesting to take a deep dive into the history of the NBA’s greatest “losers”. I want to grant a voice to those who finished in second-place, to the players being overlooked by the populace, to the athletes who history has sneered its nose at. Yes, John Stockton and Karl Malone, that includes your fabulous selves!

The law firm of Stockton & Malone!

Therefore, I present to you an ongoing series titled “Revision History of the NBA,” which will consist of individual posts presenting a bewildering “What if?” scenario, backed up by data and pretty charts, to challenge the standard historical narratives we have grown to accept.

This original post will be used to announce the article series to new readers, and to include links to each individual article down below. But before you go reading post #1, I will leave you with the following content to chew on. In order to use each scenario properly, the revisionist history must be compared to actual results. Since most of these stories will focus on individual players, I find it imperative to establish a general list of the NBA’s 25-or-so greatest players. Obviously, this is an impossible list to set as “fact” but is what I believe to be a respectable attempt at setting the proper player pool and tiers. This is not “in order,” but rather just a collection of players to use and reference to as this series of articles progresses.

Let me know your thoughts by sharing your own list — you can’t be afraid to share if I’m putting myself out there to the public!

Tier One: Basketball’s “Mount Rushmore”

  • Michael Jordan
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Bill Russell
  • Wilt Chamberlain
  • Magic Johnson
  • LeBron James

Tier Two: Title-Winning, Dominating Superstars

  • Larry Bird
  • Tim Duncan
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Julius Erving
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Jerry West
  • Oscar Robertson

Tier Three: Stars of Their Era (a.k.a. The Rest of the Group)

  • Charles Barkley
  • Moses Malone
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Karl Malone
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Kevin Garnett
  • John Stockton
  • Isiah Thomas
  • Elgin Baylor
  • Steve Nash
  • Bob Cousy

With that out of the way, I will now shift gears and begin typing up the first article in this fun series. Please see below for the links, read and enjoy the write-ups, and feel free to share with me your thoughts!

Article #1: Could James Harden Be a 2x MVP?

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