According to Doc Rivers, head coach of the Boston Celtics, the Celtics should have won the championship this year. He believes that if Kendrick Perkins had been healthy in the 2010 NBA finals, the Celtics would have defeated the Lakers and won the championship. This may be true, but according to MY interpretation of Doc Rivers’ logic, the Lakers should have won a few more championship rings this decade and Kobe Bryant should have 7 championship rings.
Sound ridiculous? Does it sound as ridiculous as a white, 6’4, unathletic, Canadian point guard winning back to back NBA MVPs after his 31st birthday? An injury to a key player during a critical stretch of games can derail a team’s championship run and rearrange the hierarchy of the entire league. Every championship is a result of skill, hard work, and maybe most importantly, luck.
Every sports fan likes to play the “what if” game. My favorite what-if: What if the Lakers had hired Phil Jackson in 2000 but they had kept their “The Lake Show” team together. Do you know how much firepower we had on that team? We would’ve had 4 all-stars all in the prime of their careers. This could have been our depth chart:
PG: Nick Van Exel, Derek Fisher, Tyronn Lue
SG: Kobe Bryant, Ron Harper, Brian Shaw
SF: Eddie Jones, Rick Fox, Deaven George
PF: Elden Campbell, Robert Horry, AC Green
C: Shaquille O’Neal, John Salley
Injuries can happen at anytime, as can suspensions, arrests, and freak accidents. They are part of the randomness of life and sports. For example, what if Ray Jackson didn’t Jackson it in his match vs Chong Li in the 1984 Kumite? Then Frank Dux and Jackson would have met in the finals, and who knows if Jean-Claude Van Damme had it in him to win it all? Would he have the heart to hit a man that he loves? (Bloodsport reference)
My point is this, the what-if game doesn’t work. Saying “well if ____ hadn’t been injured we would’ve won it all” is a very narrow-minded and unrealistic way to look at the NBA. It’s equivalent to saying “well if Adolf Hitler had suffered a heart attack in 1935, Germany would be the most dominant superpower in the world. Or Russia. Or any other country, it doesn’t matter.” Yes it’s true that if Nazi Germany hadn’t arisen and forced all the other countries into action they could have continued their economic development and technological superiority they might still be considered one of the world’s superpowers, but nobody knows. Maybe the Japanese would have continued to colonize the world and they would be the most dominant country in the world. Maybe the US would have never recognized its own potential and emerged as a superpower of its own. Nobody knows how history would have turned out, just like you don’t know the Celtics would have beaten the Lakers if Kendrick Perkins had been healthy. Maybe Kendrick’s minutes cut into Big Baby’s minutes and he doesn’t have the same effect he did in game 4 and the Lakers finish out the series in 5. It’s impossible to say what would have happened if a certain player hadn’t been injured, suspended, or a crucial shot did or didn’t go in. But just for fun, let’s take a look at the past decade of NBA history and see how injuries, suspensions, and feuds changed the course of history.