The Top 5 Biggest 'What If's' in Modern NBA History

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Top 5 Biggest 'What If's' in Modern NBA History

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The Top 5 Biggest 'What If's' in Modern NBA History

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Back in June, the Golden State Warriors won their fourth NBA championship in seven years, cementing themselves as the NBA’s latest dynasty. Their greatness over the last decade has helped usher in a new era of NBA basketball, where three-point shooting and fast-paced offense reign supreme. 

The NBA has been described as reality TV for sports fans, and the advent of social media has certainly contributed to that notion. Truth be told, the NBA’s offseason drama is so captivating, that many fans remain entertained by the league all year round. From Kevin Durant’s shocking choice to form a super team in Golden State to LeBron James televising the infamous “Decision” covering his move to the Miami Heat in 2010, NBA drama escalates with each passing year. Furthermore, the modern era has captivated NBA fans with an explosion of three-point shooting, massive salary cap increases, and players taking control of their careers. All of this drama has lent itself to even more entertainment on and off the court. 

But what if just a few major decisions in the recent era went a little bit differently? What if Stephen Curry did not stay with the Warriors after early injury struggles? What if the superteam era never came to be? From betrayal to beef and risk to reward, here are the top five biggest ‘what if’ moments in recent NBA history.

5. What if Kobe Bryant was traded to the Bulls?

In 2007, the Chicago Bulls nearly acquired the heir to Micheal Jordan’s throne: Kobe Bryant. He looked up to Jordan as a kid and Bryant nearly followed in his idol’s footsteps by requesting a trade to Chicago. Frustrated with the Lakers’ roster construction in the years following Shaquille O’Neal’s departure, Bryant was keen on forcing his way out of L.A. The trade would have seen Joakim Noah, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, and Tyrus Thomas end up in Los Angeles in exchange for the megastar. 

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This move might have paired Bryant with the young phenom Derrick Rose, who the Bulls defied the odds to acquire when they won the NBA Draft lottery in 2008. The duo of Bryant & Rose would have been league-shattering, but it’s also possible that the addition of Bryant would have put the Bulls in a different position. Ultimately, the Bryant to Chicago trade could have resulted in a Bulls playoff push because of Bryant’s star power rather than the high lottery pick that landed them Rose. After all, the trade did not go through because Bryant would not waive his no-trade clause if it meant he would be traded for Luol Deng. If this deal had seen the light of day, it’s unknown the domino effect it could have caused. There’s no doubt the ramifications would have been monumental. Instead, Bryant remained in Los Angeles and finished out his Hollywood career. He won two more championships after the Lakers acquired star big man Pau Gasol, and the rest is history.

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