The year is 2020. Donald Trump is still president of the United States. With the election looming, the Democrats are still struggling to scrounge up a clear front-running candidate—liberal icon Elizabeth Warren decided not to run, while Bernie Sanders aged out of the competition. Hillary Clinton is still hiking in the woods somewhere.
Meanwhile, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has left the sidelines, having retired in 2017 after leading the Spurs to one last NBA title, ending a remarkable run for the legendary leader. His absence, along with natural aging of the stars that anchored yesteryear’s super teams, have caused an unprecedented parity across the league. The New York Knicks, inexplicably, are the reigning NBA champs. The country is in a very bad, dark place.
This is, of course, a hypothetical situation. Like, very hypothetical. A Popovich presidency is nothing more than a pipe dream. But the basketball mastermind is certainly no stranger to civics, and he’s been a popular voice of reason on the state of American politics, particularly in the past few months. On Saturday night, for example, Popovich made national headlines for a four-minute long pre-game criticism of Trump. “I just wish he was more… had the ability to be mature enough to do something that really is inclusive, rather than just talking and saying, ‘I’m going to include everyone,'” Popovich told reporters, according to the San Antonio Express-News. “He could talk to the groups that he disrespected and maligned during the primary and really make somebody believe it. But so far, you’ve gotten to the point where you really can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth. You really can’t.”
That said, there’s pretty much zero chance Popovich would be interested in the presidency, and, of course, an even lower chance he’d actually win a national election. An voters would never, ever elect for a celebrity with so little experience in the public sector. There’s just no way. But it’s fun to dream, so we’re going to do it anyway. Without further ado, here’s Pop’s path to the White House:
OK, let’s go back a bit to 2017. Pop is just a few days into his retirement, but he’s already feeling pretty antsy. It turns out the life of plugging arthritis cream in local TV ads and taking advantage of early-bird specials is just not the life for him. So, fresh off bringing an NBA title to San Antonio, Pop returns to the Alamo City and enters the public sector, running for, and easily winning, a spot in San Antonio’s city council. It’s a position where Pop feels he can have a real, direct impact on the people of San Antonio—and he does, bigly. His political successes, meanwhile, become a constant presence on national front pages and frequently lead the evening edition of SportsCenter. The novelty of a former basketball coach in a public seat is just too good for the media to pass up. Millions of Americans nationwide are kept apprised of his do-gooding. He becomes a beacon of hope, the rare politician whom everyone loves. It doesn’t take long before the public starts clamoring for Pop to hop into the 2020 presidential race.
It starts as a Twitter hashtag: #Pop4Prez. That goes viral and soon makes its way to the real world, where Pop4Prez lawn signs and Pop4Prez bumper stickers and Pop4Prez tee-shirts pop up all over Texas. The media can’t get enough of this—newspapers run half-joking editorials endorsing Pop, imagining what he’d look like in the White House (columns, perhaps, that sound just like this one). Those light editorials quickly yield to contrarian but dead-serious hot takes promoting Pop’s presidential qualities. At first, Pop doesn’t say that he’ll run for president, but he doesn’t say he won’t, either. The movement grows and grows. A Pop-PAC forms; contributions pour in, some as few as $20, while others, from former players, are far more, goading Pop to run with the promise of a blank check. Pop builds a considerable campaign war chest, should he only choose to tap into it. In July 2019, Pop, nearly 70, realizes this is likely his last chance to run for a higher office, and he announces his bid for presidency. The race is on.
Learning from Clinton’s 2016 mistakes, Pop rebuilds Democratic support by campaigning in critical states that were ignored by the Democrats in the previous election. Popovich rides a wave of support to handily win the Democratic primary. A massive crowd at the Democratic National Convention in St. Louis goes wild when Tim Duncan takes the stage and gives an unexpectedly rising speech. Popovich introduces his running mate, former Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon. It’s a masterful choice. Hammon, a South Dakota native and the first female coach in NBA history, helps Pop appeal to women voters and a good chunk of the white working class. Her dual American-Russian citizenship, meanwhile, pleases Russian hackers, so they decide to leave this election alone.
The polls are close leading up to Election Day, but Popovich looks like he’s in good shape. Trump, meanwhile, spends an inordinate amount of time at the final presidential debate complaining about an unflattering Saturday Night Live skit, in which host Kawhi Leonard repeatedly dunks on Alec Baldwin, who by now is so entrenched in Trump’s character that he has completely disassociated himself from “Alec Baldwin” and responds only to Donald.
Election Day arrives, and, as expected, the blue wall goes for Pop. But there are a few big surprises. Pop manages to win his home state, conservative but basketball-crazed Indiana, and, in a particularly strange twist, Delaware mistakenly leaves the extra “g” off Popovich’s first name on every ballot, so the state instead elects obscure pet comic Gregory Popovich. This, of course, causes quite an uproar at first, but Delaware’s electoral college impact is minimal, so everyone eventually decides to just let the results stand.
Pop’s biggest prize of the night, though, is Texas. Trump had been polling well in the Lone Star State heading into Election Day, but the ever-plotting Ted Cruz launched a surprise eleventh-hour bid to campaign as an independent, stealing some key conservative votes in Texas from Trump. Meanwhile, the state’s blue-shifting demographic finally comes through for a Democratic candidate, sending all of Texas’s electoral college votes to Pop. At 12:59 a.m. Eastern time on November 8, 2020, the race is officially called: Coach Pop is the new president.
Popovich moves quickly to get his people in place. His cabinet is among the most-anticipated of all-time. Legendary Spurs center David Robinson gets the nod as Pop’s Secretary of Defense, a wise choice given given the Admiral’s military experience and his imposing presence in the paint (if North Korea tried launching a missile on this guy, he’d simply swat it into the third row). Pop reaches across the aisle (or, rather, across NBA rivalries) to nominate Shane Battier, a former Houston Rocket widely regarded as one of the smartest human beings to step foot on a basketball court, as his Secretary of State. Out of loyalty, Duncan grudgingly agrees to serve as Popovich’s press secretary, but it proves to be a great decision—Duncan’s conciseness and odd sense of humor plays well to a bedraggled D.C. press corps, and the quiet giant has always been a media darling. LaMarcus Aldridge gets nominated for HUD Secretary, because he just doesn’t quite fit anywhere else at this point. Spark-plug sixth-man Manu Ginobili, meanwhile, gets the nod for Energy Secretary so Pop can bring some talent off the cabinet’s bench. Or something.
As promised, on his first day in office Popovich issues an executive order banning all in-game court-side interviews. His first one hundred days go remarkably smoothly, as he draws exactly zero technical fouls while introducing a number of major reforms. He proves to be a true people’s
coach president, and reinstates the government’s commitment to teamwork and sharing, boosting healthcare and housing assistance programs. Popovich was always been able to identify talent outside the U.S., and, following the advice of Ginobili and close adviser Tony Parker, he forges new, strong relations with foreign nations. His global approach bolsters trade, and the world’s economy flourishes. People are happy. People are together. There is no more war. Flagrant fouls in the NBA reach an all-time low. We have entered a new era of worldwide peace and prosperity.
Just watch for it in four years, and it’ll be here. Mark our words.