What if . . .
- . . . Alex Rodriguez had been traded to Boston?
- . . . The '94 MLB strike never happened?
- . . . Babe Ruth was sold elsewhere?
- . . . Williams and Dimaggio didn't go to war?
- . . . Michael Jordan had continued playing baseball?
- . . . N.C. State hadn't pulled off its miracle?
- . . . The Blazers had better injury luck?
- . . . Big Ben was drafted by the Giants?
- . . . Donald Trump had made the Bills great?
- . . . Drew Brees had passed his Dolphins physical?
- . . . These field goal attempts had been good?
- . . . George Halas had died in a boat wreck?
- . . . Jim Harbaugh had stuck with Alex Smith as 49ers quarterback?
- . . . The NFL map looked like this?
- . . . Peyton Manning went to San Diego?
- . . . Teddy Roosevelt hadn't revolutionized football?
- . . . Terrell Owens was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame?
- . . . LeBron James had chosen soccer over basketball?
- . . . U.S. soccer got the right call in the '02 World Cup?
- . . . Cleveland had been saved by George Steinbrenner?
- . . . These draft moments had happened differently?
- . . . Injuries had never altered these five careers?
- . . . Lance Armstrong had been whipped by cancer?
- . . . Muhammad Ali had never met Malcolm X?
- . . . PEDs had been legal all along?
- . . . Steve Bartman had never gone to Wrigley?
- . . . Things had happened differently for these four illustrious coaches?
- . . . Tiger Woods had pursued a career as a Navy Seal?
- . . . These trades had actually happened?
- . . . Wayne Gretzky hadn't been traded to the Kings?
AP, Photo illustration by SI Premedia (left); Andy Hayt
What If ... N.C. State's miracle run in the 1983 NCAA tournament had not happened?
by Jacob Feldman
Imagine Dereck Whittenburg’s top-of-the-key heave hitting the rim, even a little, throwing everything off. Say Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon remains in defensive position, or maybe Pepperdine’s Dane Suttle, two weeks earlier in the tourney opener, makes his two free throws to beat the Wolfpack, and that famously inadvertent alley-oop never even happens.
Whichever way you draw it up, coach Jim Valvano never scrambles around looking for a hug and finding national admiration. Would he then have been known more for the whiffs of scandal that punctuated his career? Would he even have spoken at the 1993 ESPYs? Would he have become the face of a $170 million cancer-research foundation?
You don’t need to lecture UNC assistant professor Chad Pecot on the power of coincidence. His path to medicine started with his own cancer diagnosis, and his time as a researcher stemmed from a chance encounter with the doc who discovered the cure for his disease. Which is where the V Foundation came in, offering Pecot his first grant in 2014. “Without that,” Pecot says, “I would have fizzled out.” Pecot is now in year four of running a research lab at Chapel Hill.
And what of that research, partly funded by the V Foundation? By some serendipity it led to Pecot’s finding a drug that he believes will prevent certain kinds of cancer from metastasizing—which could further amplify the power of One Shining What-if.