The Five Biggest "What If's" in Miami Sports History

The Dolphins need all the help they can get.
The Dolphins need all the help they can get. Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
In sports, there are constant forks in the road. Select a quarterback or a defensive end in the draft. Trade for a big name or bring along the young guy. Order nachos or just pour beer all over yourself. Every team and fan faces a litany of decisions each season. Good ones can mean championships. Bad ones? Pain and suffering.

Any fan of a Miami sports team can describe a never-ending chest of regret. There has been so much good, but it's the other possibilities — for better or worse — that haunt us.

Here are some of the most notorious "what if's" in Miami sports history.

1. What if the Miami Dolphins had drafted Randy Moss instead of John Avery? Jimmy Johnson came to Miami with a reputation as a draft wizard. The Dallas Cowboys dominance in the '90s was built on players he selected. So when Johnson got to Miami and instantly picked up Zack Thomas and Jason Taylor with mid-draft picks, it seemed he was well on his way to duplicating what he did in Texas.

Then, Randy Moss happened. Or, better put, didn't happen. Dan Marino almost had Randy Moss to throw to in his final years. One has to believe Marino would have played another full season if Moss were a Dolphin. It hurts your head to even think about.

The Dolphins had their eye on Moss, but didn't think he would fall to their 19th pick. Famous for moving down in the draft to get more selections, Jimmy traded the pick to Green Bay instead of taking Moss. Moss went 21st to the Minnesota Vikings. The Dolphins then took John Avery at 29.

Moss went on to be a Pro Bowl starter and offensive rookie of the year thanks to his rookie-record 17 touchdowns. He ended up a Hall of Famer. John Avery did not.

2. What if "The Shot" had never happened? Everyone wanted the Heat to fail. Remember that? These days, people look back fondly on those 2010-2014 Miami Heat-LeBron teams, but at the time, the world hated us. Yes, they hated us — just because we were Heat fans.

Tensions were high in 2013. The Heat was the defending champ. A loss in the Finals would have meant LeBron and company had failed to seal the deal in two of three seasons. Back then, the consensus was a shakeup was coming if things didn't change. Chris Bosh would disappear. With the Spurs up by five and under a minute to go in game six, it seemed a massive Heat roster overhaul was coming.

Then Bosh snagged a rebound. He threw it back out to Ray Allen. And Allen's three-pointer went "bang."

No lineup changes. The Heat would become back-to-back champions, solidifying the LeBron era as a success in Miami. Thinking about if Allen had missed, though, makes you wonder what that alternative universe would have looked like.

3. What if Jose Fernandez never got on that boat? Everything changed for the Miami Marlins on the day in 2016 when Jose Fernandez passed away. Had he not, Jeffrey Loria and David Samson might have looked like geniuses. The Derek Jeter-led group might never have bought the team. The present roster wouldn't look like, well, the present roster. It would all have been different had Jose Fernandez and two associates not boarded that boat, turned to port, and died in a late-night crash near South Beach.

That was the day the Marlins window for their current roster slammed shut. With Jose gone, it was over. The Marlins were contenders with the Cuban-born star, but without him, the wind was taken from their sails. From that moment, no one could move on from the tragedy.

The Marlins are still rebuilding from that tragedy. There are new players, new owners, new uniforms, a new-look stadium, and new everything. Things might have been completely different if Jose were still with us. One thing is certain — even if he were playing for the New York Yankees right now, baseball would be better off.

4. What if the Dolphins drafted Matt Ryan instead of Jake Long? Everyone loves to remind us the Dolphins chose to sign quarterback Daunte Culpepper instead of Drew Brees in 2006. But no one could have predicted Brees and his bum shoulder would go to the Hall of Fame while Culpepper would quickly flame out and retire.

The bigger, more predictable miss was the Dolphins deciding in 2008 to use the first overall selection on Jake Long, a left tackle, instead of Matt Ryan, the consensus best quarterback in the draft. The Dolphins addressed their obvious need at quarterback by drafting Chad Henne in the second round.

Jake Long was dominant for a few seasons, but injuries derailed his career and he retired a few seasons ago. Matt Ryan will surpass 300 touchdowns this season and likely end up in Canton. Chad Henne will not be entering the Hall of Fame unless he purchases a ticket.

You have to wonder what the last 11 seasons would have been like if the Dolphins had Matt Ryan at quarterback.

5. What if the Detroit Pistons didn't draft Darco Milicic in 2003? The biggest question of them all, and most-definitely the closest bullet dodged: What if the Detroit Pistons had drafted Dwyane Wade rather than Darco Milicic second overall in 2003? Woof. Everything is different. Your life is immediately 5 percent worse. Thank you, Detroit.

It's an open secret Pat Riley was talked into picking Dwyane Wade. He liked the Marquette star, but he had his eye on center Chris Kaman as well. When the Pistons took Darco, Wade was suddenly there for the taking. Miami snatched him up and the Los Angeles Clippers ended up with Kaman at number four.

No Wade? No Shaq, and definitely no LeBron James or Chris Bosh in Miami. None of that happens? Pat Riley retires to Malibu. Wade made the Miami Heat the team it is today. It seems the Detroit Pistons are owed a ginormous gift basket.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi