Sports history: the Harry Turtledove edition

Born in Los Angeles, author Harry Turtledove writes in the category of alternative history – taking actual historical events and flipping its original outcome. He’s responsible for titles United States of Atlantis and Guns of the South. Once a UCLA Bruin, he’s received three Hugo Awards (best sci-fi in English) and two Nebula Awards (best sci-fi within the U.S.) – amongst others.

With allegiance to Turtledove’s extensive background in alternate history, what if he re-wrote the sports history books?

What if Serena Williams was stripped of her 20 Grand Slams? What if Ricky Carmichael – former MX rider turned commentator – lost his 22 motocross championships since 1997?

Bathed in unfamiliarity – from draft trades to championships – Turtledove would liberally alter today’s sports landscape.

Here’s his vision of sports history.

The 1985 NFL Draft: Jerry Rice is a New England Patriot

Turtledove’s Version: Sitting in the middle of the 1st round of the 1985 NFL draft and following a 9-7 record in the AFC East, the Patriots had a wide receiver deficiency. As tight end for the Patriots in 1984, Derrick Ramsey led in total yards (792) and TDs (7). Following the Kansas City Chiefs acquisition of UNC RB Ethan Horton at 16th overall in ’85, the Patriots had their horse at No. 17 – Jerry Rice.

An amazing collegiate career in DI-AA, Jerry Rice would go onto the 1985 NFL regular season catching balls from Patriots QB Tony Eason. That season, the Patriots walked away with a Super Bowl ring against Chicago alongside the Eason-Rice duo.

Throughout his NFL career with the Patriots, Jerry Rice would work with five QBs – Flutie, Steve Grogan, Marc Wilson, Hugh Millen and Bledsoe. He’d also catch a glimpse of 6th-round pick, Tom Brady, in 2001.

At his position, Rice would duel with veterans Troy Brown (9th year) and Drew Patten (5th year).

What really happened: In an ideal position to snag what would be one of the NFL’s most legendary wideouts in history, the Patriots forego drafting 17th overall. Although other teams keyed in on Jerry Rice, the San Francisco 49ers made an offer to the Patriots to acquire Rice. Accepted by the Patriots, the 49ers now held the 17th overall position and selected the Missouri Valley State alum.

Now at 28th overall, the Patriots settled on BYU center, Trevor Matich, who – in his NFL career debut – injured his ankle and sat out the season.

Meanwhile – in his rookie campaign – Jerry Rice was targeted 49 times for over 900 yards. The following season, he managed over 1,500 reception yards and 15 TDs.

For a majority of his NFL career, Jerry Rice found himself in the company of two of NFL’s best QBs – Joe Montana and Steve Young. Meanwhile, Trevor Matich resumed his 12-year NFL career, not as a center, but a long snapper.

In his career totals with the 49ers, Jerry Rice attended 14 Pro Bowls, tallied 23,546 all-purpose yards (currently an NFL best) and a Hall of Fame induction.

The 1957-69 Boston Celtics: 1 NBA title; Bill Russell plays for the St. Louis Hawks

Turtledove’s Version: In succession of the 1956 NBA draft – where St. Louis selected Bill Russell 2nd overall – the Hawks would become a feared front court for the late-50s and most of the 1960s. Under supervision of Guerin (1965-72) and Gallatin (1962-65), Bill Russell would share time with fellow Hawks teammates, Bob Pettit and Lenny Wilkens.

With Ed Macauley stuck in Beantown up until his retirement, the St. Louis Hawks – along with the Lakers – would reign terror on NBA teams from 1956 to 1969.

In between those years, the Celtics won one title and were then neglected from playoff contention – with or without Macauley.

What really happened: While the St. Louis Hawks experienced an NBA Finals dry spell spanning from 1957 to 1969, the Celtics’ fortune ran differently. In those 12 years – under head coaches Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn – the Boston Celtics won 11 NBA titles in their 12 appearances.

Due mostly in part of dealing frontman Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks in the 1956 draft, the Celtics optioned for University of San Francisco graduate, Bill Russell.

Bill Russell’s Career:
14,522 points, 21,620 rebounds, 12 All-Star games, 11 NBA titles

Ed Macauley’s Career:
11,234 points, 4,325 rebounds, 7 All-Star games, 1 NBA title

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