ESPN put together a list of ‘what-if’ scenarios with college basketball players and the Larry Bird and Indiana basketball connection still looms large.
While we will never know how most players’ college career’s would have gone if they decided to go the collegiate route instead of bypassing it for the NBA, it’s fun to think about, especially for the Indiana basketball program.
Through all of its great seasons, it’s crazy to think that Indiana could have had an even better run if one player decided to stay in Bloomington.
ESPN came out with a list of Superteams and what the roster would look like in certain years if the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett went to college. However, it dated back to as early as the 70’s for certain programs, one being Indiana.
If you aren’t already aware of the Larry Bird and Indiana connection, you’ll find out shortly that Bird could have been a Hoosier, and theoretically was.
In 1974, Bird was enrolled at Indiana and gearing up for his freshman year in Bloomington, but unfortunately it didn’t last long. Just one month in, the French Lick native was homesick and headed back, leaving everything in Bloomington behind.
"“People naturally think it was trouble between [Bob] Knight and me, but it wasn’t,” ‘Bird once told ESPN.com’ . “The school was just too big. I was a homesick kid who was lost and broke.”"
Now looking back on it, that homesick feeling got in the way of what could have been the best team in NCAA history. That year, the Hoosiers went 31-1, including winning he first 31 games of the season before falling to Kentucky in the NCAA Regional Final. Who was on that team? Just Scott May, Quinn Buckner, Steve Green, Kent Benson, Bob Wilkerson, and Tom Abernethy, to name a few. Add in Bird and that roster probably wouldn’t have lost for however long they would have stayed together.
ESPN’s Myron Medcalf added his touch to why that could have been the greatest team of all-time.
"“The 1974-75 Indiana team didn’t need much help, proven by an average margin of victory of 22.1 points, but the addition of one of the best players to ever touch a basketball could have made a great team a legendary squad…. If you put the 6-8 star on that Indiana team, the Hoosiers would have probably avoided the loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight, possibly sealed the first of two consecutive undefeated seasons and, with Bird likely set to return for the 1976-77 campaign, the Hoosiers might have equaled or surpassed UCLA’s record of 88 consecutive wins (Jan. 19, 1971 to Jan. 19, 1974) and vied for the “greatest college team in NCAA history” title.”"
We all know how that story went however, and Bird went on to lead Indiana State to the 1979 NCAA Championship game before falling victim to Magic Johnson and the Michigan State Spartans.
Who knows how that team would have turned out, but hey, that could go down in NCAA history as one of the biggest ‘what-if’s’ that there will ever be.