To make Blazer fans feel better in these dark days of roster meltdown, I've decided to examine what would have happened if things had transpired differently in the past. As it turns out, there's little to regret.
What if: the Blazers had won the rights to draft Hakeem Olajuwon?
On his drive from Houston to Portland, Olajuwon gets sidetracked in Eugene at a party hosted by author Ken Kesey. The revelry with Hell's Angels, Hunter Thompson, and Tim Leary has such an effect on Hakeem that he renounces his austere Muslim faith and becomes an everything-o-holic. Inside of two years, Olajuwon is ruled medically incapable of playing, due to chronic nighttime substance-abuse tremors known as the "Dream Shakes."
What if: the Blazers had drafted Michael Jordan instead of Sam Bowie?
Despite Jordan's eye-popping abilities, Nike refuses to sign a huge endorsement contract with a small market star, not to mention one so close to home, and one so familiar to Nike executives, that CEO Phil Knight steadfastly insists "I've never giving money to such a colossal jerk." Desperate for media attention, Jordan shocks the world by defecting to the USSR, where his image appears on the sides of countless gray high-rises, proclaiming, Будь как Майк! Будьте счастливы с длинной линиидля обуви! ("Be like Mike! Be happy with the long line for shoes!") After two seasons, incompetent Soviet medical treatment exacerbates Jordan's nascent injuries to the point where he opts for reassignment as a sewage supervisor in Vladivostok. You can still see him there gambling at the local casinos and ogling the local strippers. He weighs 350 pounds and hacks up phlegm a lot; it's sad. On the bright side, onetime peer Charles Barkley is so appalled by Jordan's repellent condition that he becomes an international role model for physical fitness, preventing childhood obesity everywhere.
What if: the Blazers had gotten a young Arvydas Sabonis?
His ball-handling ability, brilliant passing skills, and balletic finishing around the basket win Sabonis not only the Rookie of the Year award, but the hearts of Cold War Americans bored with lame anti-Russian movies like "Rocky IV" and "Top Gun." Accordingly, the careers of Stallone and Cruise are stopped in their tracks, and neither is ever heard from again. Yet the success of Sabonis in America creates a chain reaction of escalating international tension, culminating in a freak DefCon 5 scenario where a teenager's prankish hack of Pentagon computers results in NORAD mistaking the Blazer team plane for an incoming ICBM. The flawless "Star Wars" anti-missile system incinerates the plane, saving the world from nuclear holocaust but tragically killing the team on board. TrailBlazer fans consider this a bad trade.
What if: the Blazers hadn't blown a 600-point lead against LA in the final quarter of the WCF game in 2000?
I'd be married to Rachel Weisz. There would never have been any "Harry Potter" books since no author could have imagined the rise of Voldemort. Each dream and hope you'd ever had before or since would have come true. God would have revealed Herself to humanity, stopped global warming, and fixed the NBA's competitive balance issues. This one's best not to think about. It will depress you.
What if: the Blazers had drafted Kevin Durant?
Durant and Brandon Roy never get along, competing for scoring chances and overall Alpha Dog status. The rivalry explodes into fisticuffs after a road game up north, when Durant insults Roy's hometown by saying "the only good thing about Seattle is the view from the ferry." Emerald City residents respond en masse by inviting Durant to an all-expenses paid vacation there during the offseason after his rookie year. Durant falls in love, and makes his wishes to play for the Sonics, alongside budding superstar Greg Oden, publicly known. Excitement about this prospect causes the city of Seattle to challenge the NBA's antitrust exemption in court and win, subsequently buying the team as a municipal property and building a new, state-of-the-art arena that provides the best fan experience in sports (thanks to virtual-reality halftime "massage artists" designed by Microsoft.) Durant and Oden lead the team to 13 straight titles. This so incenses Paul Allen that he buys the entire U.S. political system and installs himself as Supreme Overlord, beginning a 1000-year reign of terror during which the playing of basketball is banned under penalty of public disembowelment. Curiously, however, the Seahawks still stink.
So, you see? Things mostly worked out for the best after all.