In honor of the NBA’s upcoming anniversary, we consider how small ripples in the timeline could have changed the trajectory of the league.

Another world lies tangent to our own—where everything is whackeyed. You wear purple skirts; you leave the dustcloth on translucent shelves; the sun is slightly green.
—Dick Allen

It behooves one to note that the Dick Allen who wrote the opening stanza above for “Theory of the Alternate Universe” is the late award-winning poet and not the iconoclastic line-drive hitter, who should, by the way, be in the Hall of Fame. Given his unpredictable nature and the fact that he scratched words into the dirt with the toe of his spikes (“Oct. 2,” “Coke,” “Boo”; you can look this up), Allen would certainly have been a fan of alternate universes, particularly if he could’ve been transported to one during the 1969 season when he unhappily patrolled first base, and doodled, for the 63–99 Philadelphia Phillies.

In recognition of the NBA’s 75th anniversary—during which it will unveil its choices for the Top 75 Players of All Time, thus giving young fans the chance to ask that age-old question: “Wait … who the hell is Dolph Schayes?”—we hereby present an Alternate Universe, a list of 10 what-ifs that could’ve changed NBA history.

Incidentally, I participated in the Top 50 voting 25 years ago and still had enough brain cells left to cast votes for the top 75. I hasten to add that I was not born when the league opened its doors as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) in 1946. Not quite, anyway. I came around in ’49, several months after the Minneapolis Lakers won the first of their five championships, beating the Washington Capitols, who were coached by a cigar-chomping relative unknown named Arnold Auerbach.