Back at in again. Still running down some important things in the game of basketball since 1984. Today I’m going to do something I rarely ever do in regards to hoops, I’m going to play make believe. We’re talking about the biggest “What If’s?” in the past 34 years. Whether it was injury, tragedy or any other anomaly, we were robbed of seeing these guys at their full potential in the NBA. And I’m willing to bet that had we been able to see it, the landscape of the league would have been drastically altered (presumably). It’s no way to ever truly know but I’m willing to bet on the evidence that was presented that these guys would have changed the course of basketball history. Enough small talk, let’s get right into it!!!!!!!
5. Drazen Petrovic
One of the deadliest shooters ever. One of the best international players we’ve ever seen. Got to the league when he was 25 and had to spend a couple of seasons backing up Clyde Drexler in Portland but when he was unleashed…………WHEW!!!!! He had some young guns with him as well. I would have loved to see what him, Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman could have become with more time together. Talk about a Big 3. It’s hard to imagine anyone really toppling the Bulls regime of the 90’s but man it would have been fun to see them go at it. Drazen really would have done some damage though. They didn’t call him “Petro” because of his name.
4. Hank Gathers
A total and complete freak of nature. He was a certified terror in college. A man amongst boys. When I think about Hank Gathers the first thing I think about is the 16 yr old kid that’s playing 14U lol. It was that easy for him. People talk about Len Bias a lot but this guy was undoubtedly on that level as well. A gifted scorer, freakish athlete and fierce competitor. I would have loved to see how he would have treated the league.
3. Grant Hill
Man oh man. Let’s just say a lot of people are lucky he started getting injured. He was a master craftsman with every available tool known to man in his toolbox. He was definitely headed towards superstardom. He gave everyone the business including two of the best perimeter defenders the game has ever seen (Hint: they won 6 championships together) when they would make the majority of their opponent’s lives miserable. He dominated college and was dominating the pros before he got bitten by the injury bug. He was still able to stick around the league for 19 yrs but man what I wouldn’t give to be able to have seen him play out his career being fully healthy.
2. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway
Now this dude right here…………I don’t think y’all understand how incredible he was. YouTube is here to help. Old footage exists. Don’t remain ignorant. It’s downright criminal for people to not fully grasp how freakin special this guy was. Handle, passing, shooting, IQ, athleticism, length, wiry strength, a perfectly constructed basketball player. A 6’9″ PG is problematic to begin with. Now imagine a 6’9″ PG that’s a human cheat code. I dare you to name one thing on the basketball court that Penny couldn’t do. I’ll wait…………..
1. Len Bias
An unspeakable tragedy. I have him at #1 not because I feel like he would have necessarily been the best player but because of the circumstances surrounding his whole ordeal. Such promise, was seemingly going into the best professional situation possible, had the world at his feet, then it’s all taken away in one foul swoop. His untimely demise had a tremendous ripple effect on the league as well. Really the misfortune of the Celtics franchise in general if we’re being honest. Len Bias passed away, Larry Bird starts to deteriorate from injuries and then Reggie Lewis dies. Bias would have helped relieve some responsibility from Larry Legend and undoubtedly would have allowed him to squeeze a couple more seasons out of his weathered body and him and Reggie Lewis would have been problematic for the rest of the league. Len Bias was a gifted athlete. He could score in a variety of ways and had an extremely soft touch for someone who’s game was so forceful and built on brute strength. If you want to talk about people playing above the rim his name definitely needs to be mentioned. It’s unfortunate that his tremendous upside. was never able to come to fruition. His death heavily impacted the DC metropolitan area and had national ramifications as well in regards to legislation surrounding drug sentencing. A truly sad ending to a very promising career and life.
All the guys mentioned here I feel like would have definitely made the game better had they been able to have longevity in the league. There are many more similar stories. Share who you feel like should be mentioned alongside the players that were discussed here.
SN: Tracy McGrady, Larry Johnson, Ralph Sampson and Bill Walton definitely come to mind when talking about players who would have had a tremendous impact on the NBA had their bodies held up. Of course Sam Bowie will forever be mentioned. Not only was he a talented player whose career was plagued by injury, he was picked ahead of the greatest player ever. MJ not going to the Bulls is definitely the greatest “What if” scenario in NBA history lol.