Texas Two Step: An Alternate NBA History (NBA2K20)

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Old 06-30-2022, 10:34 AM   #1
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Texas Two Step: An Alternate NBA History (NBA 2K20)

System/Game: PC/NBA 2K20
Mode: MyLeague
Rosters: dmx_133 1989-90 roster (with many adjustments to certain things, but without the base roster that would have been impossible)
Located here: https://forums.nba-live.com/viewtopic.php?f=258&t=108680&hilit=1989

Sliders: Shady Mike’s with slight adjustments to progression and major adjustment to contracts (I prefer a sane contract level in the league, circa 2015/16 or so) -- injury frequency set to 34, severity to 35. Will adjust as needed.

Quarter Length: 10 Minutes
Sim Quarter Length: 12 Minutes
Draft Class:

Classic draft classes, some downloaded, some based on edits I make to the (somewhat lackluster) historic classes, quite a many my own personal edits on Thunder Shaq’s incredible work (as we get further into 90s and such). I’ve upped the injury ratings for some historic players whom we never saw a full career from (like Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill) and have kept some of the random cpu generated guys that looked interesting — since this is an alternate history, the draft classes will not be completely 100% accurate but they’ll be pretty accurate overall for the guys that mattered. How their careers play out may be similar or wildly different, we’ll just have to see who goes down as a legend in this universe.

Season Length: 82 Games
Regular Season Rules: 8-15 played, rest simmed.
Playoff Rules: 2 playoff games (randomly determined by number generator, one must be in first four games) per series.
2 games allowed in NBA Finals (randomly determined by number generator, one must be in first four games)

Playoff Format: 5-7-7-7 (first round is 5 games to replicate the rules of the era and, truthfully I like it better at 5 so that’s how it will stay I think).
Progressive Fatigue: Off (seems to be too much this year, so I've taken it off -- with chemistry and injuries still on, I anticipate the league will be fine, but will adjust accordingly as we go).
Team Chemistry: On

Chemistry effects, for both the team and player morale, are turned WAY down.

CPU Trades: Off
CPU Trade Approval: Off
Trade Override: Off
Control: 30 Teams, CPU automation for lineup/coaching tasks on every team but my primary; total control otherwise (roster moves, drafting, free agency, etc). No on goes to the G-League, as that place ups the the overalls of players far too fast.

Welcome to my newest dynasty thread. I know, I know — it’s been a (long) while, many months really since I posted in the last thread I started. Real life got in the way — 2021 was just hell, especially at the end.

But this project was — thankfully — a good ways started before things went off the rails for me. I’ve spent the past 10 days going back through this, editing it, cleaning it up, and making sure it all read fine. This will be the first time I’ve tried this particular style but it seems to come quite naturally to me.

Rather than do this in the traditional 3rd person POV character/TV series narrative style, this is written more like it’s a deep-dive book — yes, we’ll have characters, but we’re not gonna be so zoomed in on them. Inspired by books written by Jeff Pearlman (I can’t recommend “Three Ring Circus” and his other books enough), this work of fiction is a multi-media deep-dive on an organization and an era of NBA basketball that looks much different than what we know.

(Disclaimer -- all this is FICTION so don't assume any of it is real in any way, other than the game results and certain real-life details of certain real-life players.)

The Many-Worlds Theory of quantum mechanics states that any action that has more than one possible result produces a split in the universe, producing a whole new reality that coexists with all the others.

Our story begins in early 1990

Last edited by trekfan; 06-30-2022 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 06-30-2022, 10:38 AM   #2
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Re: Texas Two Step: An Alternate NBA History (NBA2K20)

Ch. 1

There is a theory in quantum-mechanics that states that any action that has more than one possible result produces a split in the universe, thereby producing a whole new reality that coexists with all the others. Scientists haven’t been able to prove this theory as of yet, but there are certainly believers that this theory is, in fact, true.

Among those believers is noted NBA historian, Stanley Sloan. “There definitely exists a place, a time, where none of what we consider history — of what we know about the world — is true. A different series of events took place … for the NBA, there are a million different ways the league’s history could have unfolded.”

Indeed there is. Take the date that many NBA fans know by heart — at least those of a certain generation.

February 9th, 1990. Two days before the All-Star Game, at a hotel in Miami, Florida, the NBA’s owners met to discuss a number of issues: these were the winter meetings. It was, normally, not very newsworthy in the previous decade — under the guidance of Commissioner David Stern, however, these meetings had produced more news than usual.

“This was a big one,” recalled longtime NBA columnist Sam Gray. “The issues on the table were league expansion — Toronto, Memphis, and New Orleans all had bids … a lot of money was at play. The owners were fluid on the issue, some wanted these new teams in for the huge buy-ins they could charge, others wanted to maintain the league at the current size. Stern was a proponent of keeping things as they were, to allow the recent expansion teams to get their feet under them, but some owners wanted the cash now.”

Not only was that issue on the table, there were also rumors that one of the owners at the meeting was going to declare their intention to sell their team. “There were levels of intrigue here we hadn’t seen before,” said Gray. “And those levels went through the roof after what happened that evening.”

The evening of February 9th saw the first day of the meetings go nowhere — the owners couldn’t even agree when to take a vote, so everyone left early to enjoy the Miami night.

No one would.

David Stern left the meeting at 5:46 PM and walked across the street from the hotel to a local restaurant on the other side. At the same time, a 1982 Buick would run a red light at 90 MPH, slam into Stern, tossing him into the air like a salad before landing on the ground like a brick.

The Buick would plow on, causing more destruction as it ran more lights. Driven by a coked out-of-his-mind Omar Green — a 20-year-old running from the cops after he shot a man — the car would injure 13 other people, killing two more, before ultimately running off the side of a bridge. Omar Green and his car would plunge to the ground below — he would die on impact.

David Stern suffered a similar fate. At the age of 47, the commissioner of the NBA was dead.

Chaos ensued. The league office in New York was alerted to the situation not by local authorities, but by CNN. “We were in complete shock,” recalled then-NBA communications director Matt Corbin. “We immediately called down to Miami to see what the hell had happened and when they confirmed the news … the office was just silent. It was like someone had told us Pearl Harbor had been bombed again — it was that kind of moment.”

Stern’s death sent out shockwaves across the league and the sports world. The NBA — Stern in particular — had the foresight to have a plan for succession in place, but almost immediately there was a flaw: the man succeeding David Stern wasn’t ready for the job.

“Russ Granik was a good man, a great ambassador for the sport,” said Corbin. “But not a soul — not a singular soul — wanted him in the big chair. He was a great deputy, but he didn’t have the necessary wherewithal to be the commissioner of a league with Magic, Bird, and Jordan.”

Granik was in Miami as well — and had narrowly missed being a casualty. He was due to accompany Stern to the restaurant across the street, but held back for a moment to use the bathroom.

“To think, you stop to take a leak and then when you come out you’re the commissioner of the whole *ucking league,” Gray said. “This — this was the story of the year, regardless of anything else.”

The night of February 9th, 1990, went by like a blur for poor Russ Granik. He was put into a room with maximum security as the Miami PD chased down the driver that killed Stern. Rumors swirled that Stern’s accident wasn’t really an accident; that someone had put a hit out on him, not unheard of in Miami during that time period.

“I was frightened for my life and for my family’s life,” Granik said in an interview many years later. “The thought of dying was foremost on my mind … and it was a thought that haunted me from that point on in the NBA.”

The owners, meanwhile, were themselves having a crisis — Stern’s death had served as an unlikely catalyst on a number of issues. “Some of the owners were not a big fan of Stern and felt he treated them like dumb kids,” said Gray. “Stern didn’t do it their face, didn’t do it on the record, but you could see where they were coming from … the fact is, some of them were dumb as potatoes about things and Stern had to act as the adult in the room.”

The adult in the room was gone, replaced by Granik who feared for his life.

The morning of February 10th came and the winter meetings continued. Granik was stunned. The owners were stunned. The players in Miami were stunned. Security had increased ten-fold and the sports world, big and small, was left asking one question, over and over: what now?

“I came into that meeting shell-shocked,” Granik admitted later. “I wasn’t sure what I could do.”

The issues at play — new teams, new ownership, possibly even new uniforms — all intermixed, mingled, rose to the top, and ultimately formed a concoction some NBA fans considered poison.

“My editor was an old head,” said Gray. “When the news of Stern’s death hit, he was sad. When the news about what went down at the winter meetings hit, he was incensed; legitimately was angry as I’ve ever seen him.”

Fearing their league was about to enter a new dark age — when they had just gotten out of the last drug-fueled one — the owners made a series of decisions that many at the time thought were short-sighted, fear-driven, and too extreme.

First, the owners approved the new expansion teams — each of them had submitted a long-shot bid that all of them expected would be rejected — and the NBA was going to grow from 27 teams to 30. Those teams were going to start play in the fall of 1990.

Next, the owners approved a new uniform provider — Nike. Nike, long the brand of Michael Jordan, had exploded in popularity (and that explosion brought tons of new capital) and had submitted the bid to unify all NBA uniforms under their brand. Their submitted bid would pay the NBA and its owners more money than what they were currently getting, but David Stern — wary of letting one company rule all teams — was against the move and the issue was effectively a non-starter.

Stern’s death brought that issue back to the forefront and the owners decided to take the money — Nike would the NBA’s uniform designer starting in the fall of 1990.

Finally, not one but two owners declared their intentions to sell — the owner of the Mavericks and Rockets both wanted out and both had a list of suitors. Both these teams would be sold by the second week of June 1990.

“It was a lot to take in … in 48 hours, the league had gone from seemingly the most stable it had been in two decades to being wild,” said Corbin. “We at the league office had our heads spinning, almost constantly. I had to figure out how to break this news to the world, but I hadn’t even figured out how I felt about what happened to Stern … it was crazy. Just crazy.”

Russ Granik, newly appointed commissioner of the NBA, sat there throughout it all and hardly contributed much. “In truth, I was still in shock,” recalled Granik. “I never should have been in that meeting. That meeting should have never taken place … I should have canceled it all.”

The flurry of moves caught everyone off guard, almost as much as Stern’s unexpected death, and the owners’ decisions brought about a lot of criticism. Wrote Gray:

The NBA is a league in turmoil — and the owners are being driven by fear. New teams? New uniforms? New owners? All of it has one root cause, all of it has one commonality: money. The owners of the NBA are afraid they’re going to lose money now that David Stern has passed; make no mistake, Stern was amazing for the league for a number of reasons, but he’s made the owners of the NBA lots of cash — now, that cash flow is threatened and the owners have responded to that threat by grabbing any revenue they can.

Gray’s article was one of many scathing pieces launched by the NBA media, but much of it was lost in the falllout of Stern’s demise.

On February 11th, 1990, the All-Star game was played. The East won 130-113, Magic Johnson was named the game MVP, and no one cared. The players nearly didn’t take the court but were convinced to do so to honor the late commissioner. Led by Bird, Magic, and Jordan, there was a long moment of silence in Miami for a man that had changed the NBA, fundamentally, for the better.

David Stern would be sorely missed, perhaps by no one more than his successor.

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Old 06-30-2022, 10:47 AM   #3
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Re: Texas Two Step: An Alternate NBA History (NBA2K20)

MVP: Michael Jordan CHI
ROY: Pooh Richardson MINN
Sixth Man: Ricky Pierce MIL
DPOY: Michael Jordan CHI

Final Standings 1989-90:


The Lottery Odds:
1. LAC
2. CHA

3. SAC
5. MEM
6. TOR
7. NYK
8. MIA
9. HOU
10. ORL
11. WAS
12. ATL
13. SEA
14. SA

Draft Order:

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Old 06-30-2022, 10:52 AM   #4
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Re: Texas Two Step: An Alternate NBA History (NBA2K20)

Ch. 2

Russ Granik was commissioner of the NBA. That was now reality after February 9th, 1990, and it was a reality few were prepared for, including Granik himself. “I wasn’t ready,” said Granik years later. “I wasn’t the kind of leader the league needed then.”

The league had the rest of the regular season to finish, then the playoffs, then the offseason, then all of it again … and on top of that, news reached the league office that the player’s union wasn’t pleased with decisions the owners made during the winter meetings — specifically the addition of three more teams.

“Their argument was that it was going to make the league more money, but ours was that it was going to negatively impact the players the league already had,” said NBA Player’s Association Director Charles Grantham. Grantham, much like Stern, was concerned about the new teams that had already been added — the Heat, Magic, T’Wolves, and Hornets — and didn’t relish the idea of adding more.

More teams, in theory, meant more money for everyone, but the operations of the expansion teams left something to be desired. Players, veterans and rookies alike, were concerned that the league was over-expanding and watering down the competition; at least that was the official position. Unofficially, it was known that the veteran players on the expansion teams weren’t really happy in any of those new cities — minus Miami, of course.

Adding Toronto, Memphis, and New Orleans to the mix wasn’t a winning issue for the NBA. Ownership needed the NBAPA aboard to get things done. Granik was tasked with getting them there. Granik didn’t have much success in the first month of his leadership. Nor did he have success in the second month. Or the third.

It seemed to go by in a blink, but it was really a slog for Granik, who — try as he might — could not replicate the success of David Stern. The NBAPA sensed weakness, the owners were unhappy, and the league’s playoffs were well-underway — yet there was a pervasive sense in the league office that Commissioner Granik wasn’t up to the task.

“I thought he was in over his head,” said Matt Corbin, then-director of communications for the NBA. “The talk around the water-cooler, the talk in the bars after work, it all centered around whether Granik could get it done. He was a great number’s guy, he could negotiate a CBA with the best of them, but that was a small part of being a league commissioner.”

The owners weren’t questioning Granik so much as coming to the conclusion that the former deputy commissioner was, at best, a bridge guy. “I had owners go off the record about Granik often, and almost all of them were on the same page: this guy can’t lead the league,” recalled longtime NBA columnist Sam Gray. “The owners were worried. They needed the NBAPA to buy-in here and the player’s union wasn’t budging.”

The season ended on June 3rd, 1990, and the Detroit Pistons took the crown. The season wasn’t over for the owners, the NBAPA, and Russ Granik, however; the lack of progress on negotiations with the NBAPA over the new expansion teams reached a boiling point.

The owners demanded Granik get the NBAPA aboard. The NBAPA demanded concessions. Granik was caught in the middle of an increasingly hostile situation.

“Things got heated,” Granik recalled years later. “The owners and I had differing opinions on how to handle the NBAPA … and ultimately they made a decision I couldn’t agree with.”

Two days after the season officially ended, June 5th, 1990, the owners went for the nuclear option: they re-opened the CBA and locked out the players.

Charles Grantham was stunned, as was senior leadership of the NBAPA. Though the owners had the ability to do this, in theory, at any time they wanted, it was understood by all parties that a lockout was among the worst things for the sport as a whole. “Lockouts were things that no one really won … sure, sides got concessions, but ultimately it hurt the bottom line. Fans hated it, sponsors hated it, the PR was always bad … it really wasn’t worth the hassle most of the time,” said Grantham.

Granik was also stunned — the owners had made the move without him. “A unilateral, unwise choice,” Granik told The New York Times a day later. Effectively flanked by the people he represented, embarrassed, tired, and scared, Granik submitted his resignation by fax to the league office on June 6th, 1990.

“I was done,” Granik said years later. “I still hadn’t coped with David’s loss, I had nightmares about that night in Miami … it all could have gone so differently for me. I was ready to leave and what the owners did showed me they were ready for me to go.”

The league office was, once more, left without a leader. At least, that’s what they thought. “Granik resigning was probably best for him but terrible for the perception of the league,” said Corbin. “We were really struggling to convince the rest of the sports world that we could move on after Stern, and when Granik left, it really made it seem like we were a house of cards falling in on itself.”

But Granik, like Stern before him, had appointed a deputy commissioner — a man now in charge of a mess. That man was Dillon Terrell. Terrell was a man who had rocketed up the ladder at the league office after Stern’s death; he was, in Granik’s own words, “a fixer of problems” and had earned Granik’s trust time and time again in dealing with issues Granik himself didn’t have time for.

A year before, Terrell had just been one of the league’s many bright minds. Now, he was the man in charge of a league that seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

“No one had really heard of the guy,” recalled Gray. “He was a smart guy, a Stern type in that regard, good with numbers, good with people, but Stern kept a lot of guys like that around in the league office. How was he different? That was the question that dogged us as journalists, because his resume` read like three dozen other guys at the league office.”

Indeed, how was Terrell different?

“He was ambitious as hell,” said Corbin. “Terrell was a shark. Not in a bad way, really, but in a good way … he saw problems before they became problems and attacked them. He smelled blood in the water somewhere, anywhere, and he’d charge towards it. He had ideas.”

Now, Terrell not only had ideas, he also had power and he was ready to put that power to use.

June 7th, 1990. Dillon Terrell is introduced as commissioner of the NBA to a room full of reporters, each with a dozen questions, each with a deadline, and not a one of them knowing exactly what to make of the man. 40-years-old, 6’1”, and rather generic looking — if one were to think of what a lawyer would look like, Terrell would be that man — Dillon Terrell was now in a position no one believed he would ever be in.

Terrell gamely answered every question put to him, but his first press conference was more an exercise in cliches than anything else.

“He and I met and I gave him the cheat sheet; it was a set of non-answer answers we always had ready,” said Corbin. “He took it, thanked me, and stuck to the script. He had never had a press conference like this before and after we got out of there, I thanked him for not going rogue.”

Terrell’s first press conference was a nothing-burger; his first day on the job wouldn’t be that. Immediately after leaving the press conference he met with the owners — and he laid down the law.

“He chewed them out,” said Gray. “The owners had voted, just barely, to declare the lockout and Terrell knew who voted which way. He chewed out the ones that voted for it … he wasn’t cruel, but he was pointed. He made every owner who voted for the lockout feel immense shame.”

Terrell declared that he would end the lockout as soon as possible but he wasn’t going to end it for nothing. They were in this now and if they didn’t get something out of it, there negotiating power for future CBAs would be crippled.

Terrell spent almost two hours with the owners before leaving them and meeting with Charles Grantham.

“He was pretty direct. He told me, ‘Charles, it’s a *hitshow and the owners have made it that way. But we can get out of this with minimal pain.’” Terrell and Grantham preceded to spend the next seven hours together talking, just the two of them, about how to extract the league from the situation.

What, exactly, was said behind those closed doors is lost to the sands of time. Neither man has ever divulged the exact words or tone. But both have confirmed that a rough gameplan was drawn up in that first meeting, a gameplan they held to. “We had to have a plan to get out of the mess,” said Grantham. “If we didn’t, we were bound to be *ucked even worse.”

Grantham took the plan to the senior leadership of the player’s association, an executive committee made up of players and experts alike. Terrell took the plan to the owners, including two new ones (we’ll get to them) of the Rockets and Mavericks respectively. Selling the plan to the parties at play wasn’t easy.

“The players weren’t happy this was even happening, so naturally they were distrusting,” said Grantham. “I spent days and days lobbying. The executive committee and I had to be in agreement before we took any of this to the rest of the union — we had to have a united front.”

Terrell’s job was, in some ways, harder. The owners wanted to save face but also didn’t want to look weak. “They were a prideful bunch, and that pride was threatening to cost them a lot,” said Terrell. The new commissioner spent many long days lobbying, tweaking, pulling, pushing, and cajoling the owners that they couldn’t afford to have this lockout go on for months. It had to be over by the end of June; had to, he insisted.

The short timeline was on purpose and done for two reasons; one, the lockout was ill-conceived and was damaging. The sooner it ended, the better for everyone. Two, the longer the lockout dragged on, the more Terrell feared the NBAPA would recognize the leverage they would gain. If the lockout dragged on and on, the owners would be blamed — and they’d be rightfully hammered.

“That was a consideration, tactically speaking,” Grantham admitted. “We had those discussions, we debated whether or not we had been handed a gift. Ultimately, the players weren’t ready for a lockout and weren’t willing to risk any paychecks being missed.”

Terrell and Grantham had an agreement in place by the end of June; by July 7th, the lockout was over and business was back on in the NBA.

It wouldn’t be business as usual, however, and that was due to a few reasons. Firstly, the league had managed to convince the NBAPA that rookies needed to have a salary scale imposed on them; the veterans of the league agreed, knowing that less money for rookies meant more money for them.

Secondly, the league had two new owners — one for the Rockets and one for the Mavericks (a team barely a decade old). Houston’s previous ownership had sold the team for nearly 70 million dollars — Dallas’ price was slightly more modest (just 60 million). What made the situation unique was that both new owners had previously been partners.

In marriage.

The NBA had, unknown to them, inserted themselves into the middle of a Texas-sized feud that, for better or worse, would play a pivotal part in the league’s history from that point forward.

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Old 06-30-2022, 01:01 PM   #5
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Ch. 3

They say all great things come from small beginnings. The NBA is a testament to this, as it was once a league that could barely pay its players, then grew. The United States of America originally started out as 13 colonies but soon expanded to include many more states.

The intense dislike — perhaps even hatred — between the owners of the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks started out as a tiny event that expanded into a major conflict.

It all began in 1948. Sam Hale and Lindsay Lewis were the eldest children of two very wealthy, very different Texas dynasties. Hale was a cattle rancher, born and bred, and his family had been in Texas since the day the territory was founded; the Hale family tree was vast, rooted, and well-known.

The Lewis family tree was a transplant from New York. Lindsay Lewis, the eldest daughter of Fredrick Lewis, was a rich oil-baroness. Her father arrived in Texas in 1934 with only a few dollars to his name and a dream of striking it rich; he did in a big way, stumbling (as the story goes, drunkenly) into one of the biggest oil deposits the state had seen.

The two families weren’t exactly rivals, but the Hales considered the Lewis’ to be of “carpet-bagger” stock. The Lewis’ thought the Hale family to be slightly more-evolved than the cattle they raised. But Sam Hale and Lindsay Lewis thought the world of each other — a chance meeting at a mutual friends party in early 1948 began a whirlwind romance that swept Lindsay off her feet and made Sam feel things no woman had ever made him feel.

The two family patriarchs put aside their differences and gave the couple their blessings. On November 1st, 1949, Sam Hale and Lindsay Lewis married and united two of the most-powerful families in Texas. It was, as one Houston Chronicle columnist put it, “a marriage destined to change the fates of both families and perhaps the state itself, should it all work out.”

It didn’t exactly work out.

Immediately after the extended honeymoon, the couple realized the two of them had very different ideas on how domestic life was supposed to work. Sam woke up, every day, at five in the morning to tend to his ranch and only came back inside the house for lunch during the day — when he reported back for dinner, his day was effectively done and he’d spend the rest the evening relaxing, before heading to bed no later than ten at night.

Lindsay wasn’t about that life at all. Her day wasn’t going to revolve around a ranch or the schedule of it; her mornings began at nine, maybe ten. She wouldn’t be cooking anything, that’s what chefs were for. She would spend her day doing light shopping but mostly socializing — there were always events going on and friends needing her to stop by. She’d dine out at one of her favorite restaurants for dinner before heading home for the night — if she didn’t have somewhere else to be.

It was a contrast in styles that produced multiple clashes.

“It was one of the most unexpected pairings in Texas history,” said longtime Houston Chronicle gossip columnist Susan Langford. “Sam Hale was a man who worked and enjoyed that. Lindsay Lewis was a woman who enjoyed everything else but work. It was oil and water.”

The two would clash, often, but equally their passions would remind them why they were together in the first place — they had two children in the course of their marriage. The oldest, Trent, was born in 1954 and their youngest, Nate, was born in 1956. Both would take after their parents in some respects, and the two had a close bond.

At least until the divorce in 1959. With neither parent willing to give up total custody to the other, a sharing agreement was made and the boys spent the remainder of their childhood years jumping between homes. Trent would blame his father for the divorce (when he reached adulthood, he would legally change his last name to his mother’s), while Nate was unwilling to pick a side — something that annoyed the elder brother.

The seeds were planted and, in 1990, the rivalry sprouted. Sam Hale, on the advice of his son Nate (who had made both his parents a lot of money thanks to his stock-market wizardry) bought the Rockets. He had been careful not to let the news leak out but, as with all things like this, the news did indeed leak.

Unwilling to be left out and encouraged by her son Trent, Lindsay Lewis used some of her family’s wealth to buy the Mavericks. Trent Lewis was incredibly competitive, especially with his father (Trent had his own, rival, ranching business that had been routinely overshadowed by his father’s), and bet that his father would be unfamiliar with this new arena.

His bet, initially, looked like a good one as Sam Hale named his son, Nate, General Manager of the Rockets.

“People around the league were watching this go down and scoffing at it,” recalled longtime NBA columnist Sam Gray. “This Texas cattle baron had bought a team and immediately, in a huge display of nepotism, named his youngest son the defacto decision maker. Nate Hale had no basketball experience, no executive credentials … he was a very talented stock trader. Good with numbers, with money, but running a basketball team? It was a joke.”

In comparison, the Mavericks kept the Dallas front office and coaching staff intact. Trent Lewis, acting as the owner of the Mavericks (Lindsay had no interest in running the team at all and appointed Trent her representative), wasn’t going to make any major shakeups.

“Trent, wisely, kept on the GM who had helped get Dallas to 60-wins, Saul Mathis,” said Gray. “The other league executives saw this and liked it; anytime a new owner comes in, there’s a chance for chaos … blood in the water. Dallas wasn’t going to be the chum, but Houston sure looked tempting.”

The reports out of Houston weren’t comforting. Wrote Houston Chronicle columnist Chris Judge:

The biggest question the Rockets have is what to do about Hakeem Olajuwon. The Dream is, without a doubt, the franchise’s single most important player and after a year that saw the Rockets go 38-44, miss the playoffs, and watch Dallas become the best team in Texas, Hakeem may want out. Rumors of a trade request swirled, but never materialized last season — previous ownership was unwilling to make that move. Will Sam Hale and his son feel differently? Will Hakeem?

That was the question that dogged Hakeem Olajuwon. A legend in Houston, both for his amazing college career and his incredible NBA career, Olajuwon was without a ring — he made the Finals in 1986, losing to Larry Bird and the Celtics, and hadn’t been back since. Drugs had sunk that team and left Olajuwon with years of frustration.

“He carried bad teams as far as he could alone,” said Gray. “And his frustration in the summer of 1990 was at an all-time high.”

A meeting was arranged between Olajuwon, his agent, Sam Hale, and the new GM of the Rockets, Nate Hale.

Years ago, Olajuwon was asked about that meeting and how he would rate it, on a scale of one to ten.

“No, no, none of those. Zero. Zero,” answered Olajuwon. The meeting was a legendary faceplant and it was, largely, because of how Sam Hale approached it.

“My father,” Nate Hale recalled with a shake of his head, “opened our meeting with telling Hakeem about his prized bull, Howitzer, and how he could recognize his greatness. He compared Hakeem to Howitzer — and he meant it as a compliment, you have to realize that — but Hakeem took it poorly. He told us he ‘was not cattle’ and would not be treated as such, got up, and left.”

Sam Hale was a cattle rancher. A wealthy, well-spoken, cattle rancher — but a cattle rancher who wasn’t part of the world of basketball. The blow up at the meeting reinforced this and Hale felt so bad that he sent Olajuwon a hand-written letter of apology and a promise that he’d honor whatever request the prized-center (not bull) would make.

Olajuwon accepted the apology, didn’t make a mess of it in the press, and requested a trade to a contender.

Just like that, the greatest center — nay, basketball player — in Houston history was ready to go.

The news got out, as it does with these things — maybe it was Olajuwon’s agent, maybe it was a staffer looking for a quick payday, but the news hit the press all the same. Hakeem Olajuwon wanted out and the Houston Rockets had to find him a new home.

The request was disappointing, but not surprising to Nate Hale. “I expected it — the first meeting was bad, so that didn’t help, but really he had been stuck on bad team after bad team for years, and he wanted a title. Houston was his home but sometimes you become your best away from home.”

Nate Hale would know about that; unlike his brother, Nate wasn’t really interested in cattle ranching. He was interested in numbers; money-making numbers. He graduated high school and college early and at just 20-years-old made his way to New York City to trade stocks on Wall Street and make his family (more of) a fortune.

Most stories like that end poorly, but Nate Hale’s story was a success almost from moment one; he was a savant. Or lucky. Or both. Stock traders came in many shapes and sizes, but almost all of them had a method that could be replicated — someone could always copy someone else’s playbook. But Nate Hale’s playbook seemed unique to the point of disbelief; he’d bet big, bet small, and still make bank.

“He was truly gifted,” recalled Nate Hale’s former boss, Leo Spencer. “I’d never seen anyone with his talents. In the span of a few years he was among the top traders at our company … if he had stayed on, he’d be a living legend on Wall Street.”

Nate Hale didn’t stay on, though — he wasn’t interested in conquering the stock market or even making ungodly amounts of money. He wanted to be in charge of an NBA team and he knew the quickest path to that was through the Hale family fortune; it had been sitting there, building up higher and higher, and he knew that the money would need to be invested in something one day.

He wanted that investment to be a basketball team; specifically, the hometown Rockets.

“I looked at the markets and realized that money alone wasn’t going to be enough soon. It was going to be about assets,” said Nate Hale. “Assets would generate far more money than money alone, assets would be what people would want to invest in … we, as a family, had to have something more than just the cattle ranching business.”

Convincing his father was a challenge, but one that proved easier than Nate expected; Sam Hale had entertained similar thoughts for a few years. “I told my boy, if he could get a number that wasn’t too crazy, I’d consider it,” Sam Hale said in an interview immediately after buying the team. “The number he got me was just crazy enough to get me to agree.”

Now, that number looked questionable; how valuable could the Houston Rockets be without its greatest player, Hakeem Olajuwon?

“That was the question that haunted me,” said Nate Hale. “Truth be told, I wasn’t sure where to go … we had an idea of how valuable Hakeem was, the league had an idea of how valuable Hakeem was, but who among the contenders were willing to pay something like that? The list was pretty short.”

Thanks to the lockout, league business was behind by almost a month and the draft was scheduled to happen on July 18th, 1990 — Houston, thanks to their losing season, had nabbed the first overall pick, so in that regard they were negotiating from a position of strength. But teams around the league were convinced the Rockets were going to bungle that pick, much like the Hakeem situation.

“We really had little respect,” Nate Hale recalled. “We had to earn it and we got that, but some of the trade offers that other teams gave us … we just had to laugh, if we didn’t we’d punch a hole in something.”

Nate Hale didn’t let the poor offers distract him nor did he let the media guide him; his list of potential suitors was short. He began with the contenders that could offer him something tangible — younger players that were proven to a degree, but not necessarily superstars.

There were the defending champions, the Pistons, but they had veteran players and not very valuable picks. The Cavaliers were possible — certainly they had the younger, star players but sending Hakeem to Cleveland seemed like a punishment. Boston was possible if they were willing to include Reggie Lewis and multiple picks, but that seemed unlikely.

Nate Hale’s thought processes virtually eliminated any team in the Western Conference — he and his father both agreed that Hakeem in the West was going to be a problem.

“We could have sent him to the Lakers or the Suns, hell even Portland,” said Nate Hale. “But every time we spoke of that scenario, the fear was we would get burned by Hakeem — that he’d be the obstacle we’d need to clear to achieve a playoff berth or advance in the playoffs and we’d be unable to get by him. We were guided by that fear.”

Trade rumors swirled — the league was abuzz with potential deals, but no solid offers were on the table.

At least, no official offers. Unknown to virtually all the NBA, a team had used a back-channel connection to inform Nate Hale that there was interest from their side in a deal — a deal that would solve problems for everyone, a rare win-win in the NBA.

It was a deal that was shocking at the time and became more legendary — and infamous — as the years went on. It was a deal that would define the NBA, one that was the first in a growing arms race that would make the league the 24/7 sensation it is today.

NBA historian Stanley Sloan put it this way: “This was an event that everyone knew would usher in a new era. It was the basketball equivalent of a nuclear bomb being deployed, except no one could escape the fallout — it covered everything, everyone, every team. It reverberates to this day.”

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Old 06-30-2022, 01:56 PM   #6
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Re: Texas Two Step: An Alternate NBA History (NBA2K20)

Yes he's back!! Loving this so far trek! Really looking forward to seeing where Hakeem goes to. Jordan and the Bulls, or Knicks for Ewing?! So many possibilities!! Major turbulent seasons ahead with so many new/poor teams!
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Old 06-30-2022, 01:59 PM   #7
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Re: Texas Two Step: An Alternate NBA History (NBA2K20)

Originally Posted by RMJH4
Yes he's back!! Loving this so far trek! Really looking forward to seeing where Hakeem goes to. Jordan and the Bulls, or Knicks for Ewing?! So many possibilities!! Major turbulent seasons ahead with so many new/poor teams!

Yeah, this is gonna get fun -- some things people were speculating might happen with the big names in the 90s actually end up sorta/kinda happening. The Hakeem trade is gonna set off a chain reaction ...

Happy to be back and happy you like it so far.
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Old 06-30-2022, 02:00 PM   #8
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Re: Texas Two Step: An Alternate NBA History (NBA2K20)

Fascinating stuff Trek.

I can tell you are basing this on historical events (Olajuwan did ask for a trade), which is making me wonder what Eastern team has notable problems in 1990ish. The Celtics had injury issues, Jordan had personality issues (but not sure this makes the cut), and the Sixers had Barkley issues, but maybe trading Hakeem and pairing him with Barkley makes them a contender - because they weren't a great team outside of Charles.
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