No NFL or NBA? I Can Only Imagine…

Posted: July 6, 2011 in BCS, NCAA, NFL, sports
Tags: , , ,

Both the NFL and NBA have hung out “closed for business” signs because of owner-imposed lockouts. The end appears in sight for the NFL players and owners settling their differences. There’s speculation the NBA could miss all of next season.

Imagine there was no NFL or NBA. Imagine there never had been. How would the world be different?

Obviously there are a trillion answers to that question. (Understand that trillion is now the popular number thanks to our national deficit.)

But I do offer a few things that would have changed the games at the college level.

Truthfully, if there had never been an NFL the college game couldn’t be all that different. Even now football athletes can’t go pro until three years after their high school graduation. Most coaches learned a long time ago to play their top recruits as freshmen because they probably wouldn’t have them for more than three years.

If Emmitt Smith had stayed at Florida for his senior season and Coach Steve Spurrier’s first, would the ’90 Gators have been better than the 9-2 record they posted? Probably not. The Gators were blown out at Tennessee and beaten by 15 points in Tallahassee.

If Deion Sanders had played as senior would FSU have improved on its 10-2 record? Perhaps. With Deion, the Seminoles and Coach Bobby Bowden might well have gotten their first national championship in 1989 instead of having to wait until 1993. FSU lost its first two games in ’89, losing 30-26 in a shocker to Southern Miss (and a quarterback named Brett Favre) at the old Gator Bowl. The next week FSU fell 34-23 at Clemson. Deion likely would have made a difference.

Another difference if there had never been an NFL is Florida’s Danny Wuerffel and FSU’s Charlie Ward likely would be considered among the game’s all-time great quarterbacks. But neither starred in the NFL – Wuerffel was a journeyman for several years and Ward ignored the NFL for a 10-year NBA career – and we tend to judge players, even college players, by their pro careers.

And, of course, if Reggie Bush had returned for his senior season at Southern Cal, the Trojans likely would have another national title. And that means USC would have forfeited two national championships instead of one because of Bush’s NCAA violations.

The basketball world, however, would be turned upside down if there had never been an NBA. Keep in mind college players started leaving school early in the 1970s. Soon afterwards jumping straight from high school to the NBA became routine. The current one-and-done rule makes a joke of many college programs.

Just imagine . . .

How many NCAA tittles would Michigan State had won if Magic Johnson hadn’t bolted for the NBA after leading the Spartans to the championship in ’79 as a sophomore? Remember, he led the Lakers to an NBA title in 1980. Would North Carolina’s Dean Smith have made it back-to-back titles – and ruined Jim Valvano and N.C. State’s magical moment – if Michael Jordan had returned for the 1982-83 season?

Would Florida have won back-to-back titles in 2006-07 if LeBron James had been at Ohio State? Would the Gators have made it three straight titles if Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer returned for their senior seasons?

How strong would Duke have been if Kobe Bryant wore a Blue Devils uniform from 1996 to 2000? Duke won the title anyway in what would have been Kobe’s senior season. Think Duke would have won in ’99 with Kobe instead of finishing second?

Derrick Rose bolted from Memphis after one season and a runner-up finish in ’08. The school had to vacate its second-place finish after it was discovered someone took Rose’s college entrance test. If Rose had stayed in school how many more games would have been forfeited once his indiscretion became known? Memphis might have received the NCAA death penalty.

How unbelievably talented would Kentucky be if there was no NBA. Then again, without the NBA the Wildcats probably wouldn’t have attracted so much talent. Why would Brandon Knight, for example, have gone to Kentucky if John Wall was still there? Knight likely would have gone to Florida or FSU and helped one of his home state schools earned more victories.

In 2004 Dwight Howard went straight from high school in Atlanta to the NBA. Georgia Tech lost the NCAA title game in ’04. If Howard had gone to Tech how strong would the Yellow Jackets have been in ’05?

What if Kevin Garnett had gone to Illinois instead of the NBA in 1995? Big Ten history might have been rewritten. Texas is a basketball powerhouse and might well have gotten a title if Kevin Durant had played more than one year for the Longhorns.

Think about how things would have changed if Tracy McGrady had taken a different path. He grew up in Florida, attended a bunch of different schools and then wound up playing for something called Mount Zion Academy in Durham, N.C. as a senior. (Mount Zion was the epitome of the prep basketball factory: a school located in the basement of a church with basically a student body made up of a basketball team and coached by a man known for peddling young men with outstanding basketball skills.) If McGrady hadn’t had the NBA he no doubt would have gone to a JUCO and then later flunked out of a four-year school. Hell, he probably would have gotten some school in trouble. Remember, we’re just imagining here.

I could go on and on. I told there were a trillion scenarios.

Away from the NFL fields and NBA courts, if you imagine a world that never had the NFL or the NBA you can only imagine how baseball would still be our national pastime; how much bigger college football would be; how major interest in college basketball wouldn’t be limited to just March Madness; how Michael Jordan would have challenged Jack Nicklaus’ record of winning 18 majors; how popular pro soccer would be in the USA and how many World Cups the USA would have won; how Larry Bird would be running a general store in French Lick, IN.; how American men would still be winning major championships in tennis; how Peyton Manning would be coaching high school football in New Orleans; how Vince Lombardi would’ve been a prep school teacher in New York City; and how boring Sunday afternoons from September through to January would be.

  1. Wyman Stewart says:

    Michael Jordan might have played college baseball for North Carolina or been drafted and signed by a Major League team out of high school. Wilt the Stilt might have put USA Professional Volley Ball on the national map. Behemoths of college football might have made Professional Sumo Wrestling a major American sport. Bo Jackson might have had a Hall of Fame baseball career. There would be no Jaguars in Jacksonville, unless it was a Major League baseball team, which the city would probably be clamoring for. Phil Jackson would either be an unknown or a college basketball coach; maybe a long time assistant to Tex Winter. Bizarre to think about some of this.

    By the way, in 1978 I happened to listen to the Michigan State vs. University of Kentucky NCAA Tournament game. Broadcast legend Cawood Ledford pointed out how much better Michigan State would be, once Magic Johnson’s team mates got used to his incredible passing skills. Had they caught and converted a few more of Magic’s passes into baskets, Michigan State would have defeated the eventual 1978 National Champion Kentucky Wildcats. Even on radio, the game was memorable. 🙂 Glad he lost that one.

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