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'What If'? History Re-Do Gives Mavs Dirk, Tarpley, Malone & Kobe

'What If'? A Hypothetical Look at DFW Sports History Gives The Mavs Dirk, Tarpley, Malone & Kobe - And the Cowboys, Stars and Rangers All Dominate, Too

 What if …

Luka Doncic was instead born Lucy?

Jimmy Johnson stayed, and Jerry Jones left?

Nelson Cruz was positioned deeper?

A bunch of Dallas-Fort Worth events that did, actually didn’t? And vice-versa.

As we steam into a 2020 strange summer without a game plan for the return of sports as we know it, there’s plenty of time to ponder the unknowns – past, present and future. From Tony Romo to Jackie Smith to Dez Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, sports’ small acts often come laced with monumental implications.

A drop, a misplay and a front rim here. A dynamic, eternal franchise reroute there.

Tiny details. Titanic detours.

Destiny often calls “shotgun!” as we approach fateful forks in the road. It could be decisions with negligible immediate impact, such as choosing paper over plastic. Or the time you overslept and missed your Manhattan breakfast meeting, only to watch the restaurant – and both Twin Towers – implode. In sports, it might be the Hail Mary that was caught, the Super Bowl touchdown pass that was dropped, the home run hero traded for dryer lint or the NBA Hall-of-Famer bypassed in the draft.

Hindsight is 20/20, but even more visionary when you play it forward. So put on your hypothetical hat and consider a revisionist’s future born from a history that never happened.

What if … Cassius Clay went into the Army and Roger Staubach stayed in the Navy? … Hugh Hefner was born gay? Cruz camped under David Freese’s fly ball like a can o’ corn?


ARLINGTON – Ensuring that one of the most productive and beloved players in franchise history would never wear a different uniform, the Texas Rangers christened their 2020 spring training by signing 39-year-old slugger Nelson Cruz to a two-year contract.


Since casually catching David Freese’s lazy fly ball on the warning track to win Game 6 in 2011 and clinch the Rangers’ first World Series, Cruz has hit 295 homers, produced 796 RBI been a fixture on one of baseball’s best teams. The Rangers, who went on to win three championships in the next five years, are expected to send four of their core players to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown: Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton.

“It’d be scary to think where we might be had Nellie not caught that ball in St. Louis,” said five-time Executive of the Year, general manager Jon Daniels. “That moment – that night – totally transformed the trajectory of this franchise. I shudder to think of us without his bat over the years. Who knows? We might not have even gotten back to another World Series without Nellie and our nucleus staying intact. This franchise once traded Sammy Sosa for Harold Baines. We’ve learned from our mistakes.”

Manager Ron Washington, entering his 14th season in Texas, has high hopes for his club again this season, bolstered by a veteran offense and the dominant closing of the club’s all-time saves leader, Neftali Feliz. In 2020 the Rangers will move into Nolan Ryan Park, a retractable roof stadium/natural grass playing surface that will honor the legendary player and current CEO entering his 12th season in the front office.

What if … Earl and Tida Woods steered their son toward bowling, instead of golf? … Adam, Eve and Elvis displayed will power? … Jackie Smith caught that pass?


DALLAS – Basking in the glow of yet another victory over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, the Dallas Cowboys are preparing for a run at their record ninth Super Bowl. With a regular-season finale win at Landry Stadium in Fair Park, the Cowboys continued a mastery that started with tight end Jackie Smith’s sliding touchdown catch and ensuing dramatic comeback in Super Bowl 13 in 1979.

“At the time it just seemed like a simple, easy catch,” said Smith, the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator under head coach Roger Staubach. “But looking back, I guess it was a real turning point. Thank God I didn’t drop it, huh?”

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The Cowboys have dominated the NFL the last four decades, including winning championships in 2006 after Tony Romo’s routine hold of a game-winning field goal in Seattle and in 2014 via a playoff run launched by Dez Bryant’s diving catch in Green Bay.

Dez catch

Romo, the 39-year-old, four-time Super Bowl champ, continues to play at a Pro Bowl level while declining overtures from TV networks to join their broadcast booths. Meanwhile, the hapless Steelers have been relegated to a launching pad for other teams’ success. The Oakland Raiders won a Super Bowl after Franco Harris’ ill-fated Immaculate Deception, and the Buffalo Bills beat Pittsburgh on their way to a title clinched when Scott Norwood sneaked a game-winning field goal inside the right upright against the New York Giants.

Unable to find family members willing to take over the floundering franchise, interim owner Mickey Rooney said he will seriously consider an offer from Arkansas oil man Jerry Jones. Apparently, Jones is considering any of 500 coaches, including Notre Dame’s two-time championship boss, Jimmy Johnson.

Meanwhile, the NFL has sympathetically decided to put former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s name on a trophy – the England Bowl. Lombardi, you’ll remember, sent his franchise into a tundra tailspin by forgoing a game-tying field goal for a risky quarterback sneak late in the Ice Bowl against the Cowboys. Quarterback Bart Starr slipped on the frozen field, sending Dallas to its first title and ensuring the engraving of the Tom Landry Super Bowl trophy.

What if … The Cowboys drafted Randy Moss over Greg Ellis in 1998 and signed LeBron James in 2011? … Jack Ruby didn’t pull the trigger? … The Mavs drafted Karl Malone?


DALLAS – The Mavericks today opened new Carter Coliseum by retiring the four most successful jerseys in team history: Karl Malone’s No. 32, Roy Tarpley’s No. 42, Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and Dirk Nowitzki’s No. 41. Malone, selected by Dallas over Detlef Schrempf in the 1985 NBA Draft, retired as a 15-time All-Star and the league’s second all-time leading scorer. And with his unique blend of speed, size and skill, Tarpley helped revolutionize the center position.

mavs 4 what if

Sparked by Mark Aguirre’s gutsy performance with a sprained thumb in the 1988 Game 7 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavs won four consecutive titles from ’88-’91. It was Malone, remember, who took Tarpley under his wing and later formed the NBA’s most dominating frontcourt duo.

“Without Karl, it’s scary to think where I would’ve ended up,” said Tarpley. “Throughout my life I’ve been tempted, but thanks to "The Mailman,'' the only drug I’ve ever used is Rogaine.”

The Mavs won their other five championships in the 2000s after drafting Bryant over Samaki Walker in 1996. Paired with Nowitzki, the combo allowed Dallas to fend off challenges to its throne from Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs, Shaquille O’Neal’s Los Angeles Lakers and Dwyane Wade’s Miami Heat. Thanks to Nowitzki’s clutch free throws in the final minute of Game 3, the Mavs memorably won the 2006 NBA Finals. Afterward, mayor Laura Miller and the City of Dallas were nationally recognized for their innovative, proactive parade preparations.

Owner Don Carter raised the newest banners alongside the one commemorating Dick Motta, the NBA’s all-time winningest coach. In other NBA news, bizarre billionaire Mark Cuban is buying the rights to The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and petitioning the NBA for an expansion franchise in his hometown.

What if … The Boston Red Sox never traded Babe Ruth, the Portland Trail Blazers didn’t pass on drafting Michael Jordan and Vince Young chose Texas A&M over Texas? … Kale tasted like chocolate? … Ed Belfour stopped the double-overtime puck?


FRISCO – Former Dallas Stars’ goalie Ed Belfour was today awarded the highest civilian award from Dallas police for his security efforts as owner of the swanky hotel, The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Belfour’s establishment has a 100-percent clean slate, according to police.

“At one point we had people getting drunk, arrested and making comical billion-dollar bribes to the cops,” said Belfour, a hockey Hall of Famer who won back-to-back championships for the Stars in 1999-2000. “Makes you wonder how their lives ever got to that point.”


Belfour was the hero of the 2000 Stanley Cup, when his diving glove save of a Jason Arnott shot that looked as if it would win Game 6 in double-overtime and clinch the title for the New Jersey Devils. Instead, Belfour’s stop allowed the game to go into triple-overtime, where Mike Keane scored to force a Game 7. In the decisive game two nights later, Brett Hull scored from the crease in triple-overtime to secure Dallas’ back-to-back titles.

“I’m thankful every day that we avoided the embarrassment and horror of watching another team skate the Cup on our ice,” said Stars owner Tom Hicks, whose team’s success on the ice has kept it financially healthy. “You know, some teams never recover from that.”

What if … Everything in sports occurs not by happenstance, but for a pre-ordained purpose attached with far-reaching tentacles and incomprehensible, domino-effect ramifications?

What if … Coronavirus comes back, but sports don’t?