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?
What If ... Michael Jordan had stuck with baseball?
by Ted Keith
For starters: At least one person thinks MJ would have succeeded had he stuck to the diamond. "Give him 1,000 at bats [in the minors] and he'd have found his way to the majors," says Indians manager Terry Francona, who in 1994 oversaw Jordan on the White Sox' Double A affiliate Birmingham Barons. "If you tell him no, he's going to find a way to make the answer yes."
One regrettable SI cover aside, Jordan wasn't too bad at the national pastime. At 30, having not played since high school, he batted .202 with three homers and 30 stolen bases. Another year or two of seasoning and he might have been on the Sox team that missed a playoff spot by three games in '96. Maybe he helps Chicago to the postseason (or convinces the team, for better or worse, not to make its infamous "white flag" trade at the '97 deadline). Alas, an MLB strike in '94 nudged MJ back to the NBA, where he won three more titles, denying a handful of legends who retired ringless.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images; Photo illustration by SI Premedia
Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Shawn Kemp, John Stockton and Karl Malone—without the GOAT, you can imagine a path to victory for each one. You can also imagine, in this bizarro NBA, an entirely different GOAT debate. Jordan would have finished with fewer titles than Magic, the same number as Bird, and LeBron would already have tied him. But MJ did go back to the Bulls and soon became the GOAT. And there's no wondering about that.