Dwight Howard has retreated to a mountain somewhere to ponder his future. And that gives us a little time to sit back and appreciate the recent past — and how the NBA landscape might look a lot different (Chris Bosh trade rumors, anyone?) if not for Ray Allen.
There have been many plays in sports that have not only changed the momentum of a game, but of history itself. These plays change the outcome of a season or sometimes a career, starting a cascade of events that alter the landscape of an entire league. They mark pivotal moments in history.
Michael Jordan’s steal from Karl Malone keeps the Mailman and John Stockton as the two greatest players never to win a title.
The Utah Jazz had built a tremendous machine. Stockton to Malone paired statistically the Greatest Point Guard in history with the Greatest Power Forward in history for an incredible 18-year run. Both players dominated their position their entire careers, made the Hall of Fame, and won Olympic Gold Medals. They were finally poised to win the first championship in franchise history defeating the Jordan Bulls when Michael made an incredible steal, blindsiding Karl in the low post to grab momentum and win the series. They never did win one.
Other history-altering moments are plentiful.
_ Nick Anderson misses four free throws in the closing seconds of Game 1 of the 1995 Finals, ending Orlando’s Shaq/Penny Dynasty before it begins.
The Magic were building a dynasty with the most dominant big man in the game paired with a star young point guard. Both were in their early 20’s and got along great. They were young, hip, and the team was built for a long run at the top.
At home in Game 1 of their first Finals together, which they were picked to dominate, Nick Anderson gets fouled in the closing seconds with the Magic up 3. He misses both, gets his own rebound and gets fouled again. He misses both again, and the Rockets Kenny Smith makes a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game, which the Rockets win in overtime. Houston seized momentum and the Magic never recovered, losing four straight. The next year Penny Hardaway hurts his knee and Shaq gets restless. Without the success of the Championship, Shaq finally gets disillusioned and bolts for the Lakers, winning 3 titles there. Penny never fully recovers, and after a few years of mediocrity, the team disbands.
This year I picked the Spurs in 6 over the defending champion Miami Heat. Even with the best player in the game, I thought the Heat were vulnerable inside where the Spurs were very strong. For 5 games, 47 minutes and 55 seconds I was right on. Then the earth shifted on its axis. With time winding down, LeBron missed a three, and Chris Bosh rebounded and kicked it out to Ray Allen, who drilled the game tying 3-pointer. The rest is history, as the Heat went on to win the series.
Lets take a spin in the magic time machine and examine the true impact of that shot, besides the obvious of the Heat winning their back-to-back title.
Remember, this is examining the alternative timeline that occurs by Ray Allen not making his game tying triple to end Game 6.
1. LeBron is the goat (and I don’t mean the Greatest Of All Time).
As great as LeBron is (and he is great) he continues to get criticized for not being able to finish big games. In our alternative timeline, he just committed 2 awful turnovers, missed the game tying shot, and the Heat are upset by the Spurs. He gets bashed in the press and the fans start to turn on him. Players have left teams for less (the aforementioned Shaq out of Orlando, for instance).
Side note: I am a huge LeBron fan. I am constantly amazed at how far people have to go to find something critical to say about him. That they actually do is amazing to me. ‘Nough said
2. Chris Bosh takes a huge hit and gets traded.
Chris Bosh was exposed in the Indiana series and again in the San Antonio series. He isn’t physical enough to defend the post against big, skilled players and offensively doesn’t give them an inside presence. He is shooting perimeter shots that 7 guys on the roster can shoot better than him.
Pat Riley will do whatever it takes to improve, so he moves Bosh for a big. He goes from one of the Big 3 back to the Big Fish in the Small Pond.
3. Ray Allen’s career is possible over
The torch gets passed to Danny Green. He breaks (crushes) Ray’s record for the most 3’s in a series and ends on a high. Remember in this timeline his 1-for-12 Game 7 never happens and he is talked about as Finals MVP. He is the new shiny penny and his 3-point shooting barrage becomes legend. Ray’s season ends with a whimper as he barely plays and gives no heroics.
4. Team gets dismantled
After an unexpected loss, roster changes tend to steamroll. Any trade for a big contract like Chris Bosh’s tends to involve lots of players for salary cap reasons. Some guys get thrown in to match salaries. Then new position issues come up, forcing other trades. Before you know it wholesale change happens and you don’t know if the mojo ever returns.
5. Dwayne Wade goes too
Aside from Game 4, the Big 3 became the Big 1. Wade struggles, his best days behind him. The knee is “a thing”. He doesn’t have that spring anymore. Maybe its time to trade him while he still has value. Losing hurts and causes front office folks to start thinking about things they might not otherwise have considered.
6. San Antonio is the Team of the Decade
With a 5-0 Finals record, the Spurs are the Best Team of the Decade and the Heat are a flash in the pan. LeBron gets his one, not 6 or 7. Tim Duncan dominates with 37/17 in the Final game and is cemented as the greatest Power Forward ever (even though he plays center). Tony Parker is the best Point Guard in the league and Popovich is the new Zen Master.
7. Nike loses millions
It was released during the Finals that Nike had already made the LeBron 2nd Championship shoe. With LeBron as the goat and the Heat losing, not only does this not happen but LeBron’s star does the natural fade that happens when you lose. The next big thing is the return of Derrick Rose, and the competition’s machine goes into high gear. Remember in this timeline LBJ didn’t dominate Game 7 or win the Title or the Playoff MVP!
As you can see a lot was riding on that shot going in. A lot of people are kissing their Ray Allen bobblehead dolls. It’s a good thing that Ray wasn’t thinking about all this at the time. He had enough going on as it was!
Side note #2. I’m happy for Ray, one of the All Time good guys.
Danny Schayes is a retired 18-year-veteran of the NBA, a professional broadcaster and aspiring author now penning NBA columns for SheridanHoops. Follow him on Twitter.
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