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?
Derek Jeter (left) imagined as a Red; Jerry Rice imagined as a Cowboy (John Iacono [Jeter]; Focus on Sport/Getty Images [Rice]; Photo illustrations by SI Premedia)
What If ... these four pivotal draft moments had happened differently?
by Jacob Feldman
The entire course of a franchise can be altered by a single draft pick. What if these superstars ended up in a different zip code on draft night?
WHAT IF ... Top Reds scout Gene Bennett pounds his fist, and the Cincinnati brass actually listens and drafts Derek Jeter, not Chad Mottola, No. 5 in 1992.
NEW ENDING: With Barry Larkin at shortstop, Jeter moves to centerfield, opens a nightclub, starting a Queen City nightlife boom. Bennett becomes widely accepted as MLB’s brightest mind.
Carmelo Anthony imagined as a Piston (Photo illustration by SI Premedia)
WHAT IF ... Pistons nab Carmelo Anthony (as some project) over Darko Milicic in 2003.
NEW ENDING: Detroit still wins ’04 Finals, with Melo coming off the bench. He emerges in ‘05 as Pistons beat Spurs in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Two years later Kobe Bryant doesn’t veto trade to Detroit; era's first superteam forms.
WHAT IF ... Niners and Patriots can’t agree on a draft-day trade in 1985 and Jerry Rice slips one pick to Cowboys at No. 17.
NEW ENDING: Rice starts his career hot before Danny White breaks wrist in ’86; Aikman takes over in ’89, goes on to tie Montana and Bradshaw with four Super Bowl wins. Michael Irvin ends up in San Diego, where he beats Rice and the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXIX.
Kobe Bryant imagined as a Net (Photo illustration by SI Premedia)
WHAT IF ... First-year Nets coach John Calipari ignores Kobe Bryant’s bluff that he'd rather play in Italy than Jersey in 1996 and drafts him at No. 8.
NEW ENDING: One month later FA Shaquille O'Neal chooses his hometown, Newark, instead of Los Angeles. Nets add Jason Kidd in '01, and the three take over the NBA. Calipari stays in the NBA while Coach K becomes face of one-and-done recruiting, luring the likes of John Wall and Anthony Davis.
Andrew Luck imagined as a Panther (Photo illustration by SI Premedia)
WHAT IF ... Andrew Luck enters 2011 draft as a junior—surprising no one—and goes No. 1 to Carolina.
NEW ENDING: No. 2 pick Cam Newton (to the Broncos) inspires a groundbreaking two-QB system in Denver alongside Tim Tebow. Luck builds budding friendship with Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and agrees to go hunting on Saturdays as long as Luke plays Settlers of Catan on Friday nights.