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Burning Questions

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

One of the liveliest conversations sports fans can have begins with two simple words: “What if…?” What if the USFL became a major rival to the NFL? What if Max Holloway was able to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov? What if the Indianapolis Colts drafted Ryan Leaf instead of Peyton Manning? What if McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, etc. were never on the juice? What if there was never an NBA-ABA merger? Etc., etc., etc. Here are 10 more questions that we think are great conversation starters:

• Japan baseball legend Sadaharu Oh played in the Major Leagues? (Sure, Oh had 868 career home runs, but they were all in Japan. How would he have fared against the likes of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry and Tommy John?)

• Michael Jordan never retired from the NBA to play baseball? (Could the Chicago Bulls have won eight straight NBA championships?)

• The WNBA existed when Cheryl Miller was still playing basketball? (Many observers still consider Miller to be the greatest female player in the history of basketball.)

• Tiger Woods had been healthy for his entire career? (How many more majors would he have won by now?)

• Bo Jackson didn’t suffer his career-ending hip injury? (Would we be calling him the greatest running back of all time?)

• Muhammad Ali wasn’t exiled from boxing for three-and-a-half years for refusing to serve in the U.S. military? (His trainer, Angelo Dundee, said: “[Ali] was robbed of his best years, his prime years”)

• Cubs fan Steve Bartman never tried to catch that foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS? (Sorry for dredging up the memory, Cubbies fans, but we had to ask.)

• Len Bias never died of a cocaine overdose? (Imagine adding the college hoops superstar to a Celtics team with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Can you say “New Celtics dynasty?”)

• The Edmonton Oilers never traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings? (Gretzky led the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships before the blockbuster trade. Oh, what might have been!)

• There was never a baseball color barrier? (The implications of this one are beyond mind boggling.)

And a couple of “What Ifs” for Hawaii fans to think about:

• Dick Tomey never left UH for Arizona after the 1986 season? (Would he eventually have gotten a win over BYU? Would he have won a WAC title?)

• The Rainbow Warrior basketball program emerged unscathed from the NCAA investigation in the mid-1970s? (Would the program have avoided the malaise it endured for the next decade? Would Rick Pitino have been UH head coach?)

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