What would Michael Jordan versus Magic Johnson at their peaks
have been like? No, we're not talking about the 1991 NBA Finals
(right), in which Air's hungry young Bulls ran roughshod over
Magic's Kareem-less Lakers, but 1986-87 Showtime Los Angeles
against Chicago's 1995-96 powerhouse. The latter matchup has
occurred--on whatifsports.com, a year-old sports simulation
website created by Tarek Kamil, a Cincinnati engineer. The
fantasy spine tingler (or, at least, this playing of it) wasn't
decided until Lakers forward James Worthy stole the ball in the
closing seconds of Game 7 at United Center to seal a 107-105
The idea for the site "started with the '98 Yankees and the '75
Reds," says Kamil, 32. "My friends and I got tired of arguing
about which team was better, so we decided to figure it out."
What he and his fellow number crunchers devised was a statistical
formula that can be applied in attempts to answer some of sports'
great debates. At no charge, the site lets visitors pick from a
database of almost 3,000 NBA, major league baseball and college
basketball teams, or create a fantasy squad. The simulation
engine spits out box scores and play-by-plays. Intriguingly, for
any rivalry the program permits different results from simulation
to simulation. "We want to show what could happen on any given
night," says Kamil.
By the way, in our simulation the 1975 Reds defeated the '98
Yanks in seven games. As for that notorious best-of-nine 1919
World Series, the fix may still be in: In our what-if simulation,
the Reds again prevailed over the Black Sox, this time in nine.