NBA Conspiracy Theories and Why the League Is Its Own Worst Enemy

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIJune 3, 2012

NEW YORK - JUNE 26:  NBA Commissioner David Stern shakes hands with number one draft pick for the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose during the 2008 NBA Draft at the Wamu Theatre at Madison Square Garden June 26, 2008 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Conspiracy theorists reared their heads again last week when the NBA cast aspersions on David Stern and the way the league conducts its business with the latest draft lottery. The New Orleans Hornets were the winners, but the losers were the fans who have doubts whether the league is on the up-and-up..

The until recently league-owned Hornets came up with the first pick despite just a 13.7 percent chance of winning. Questions arose whether part of the deal with the new ownership group included a guarantee of them securing the first pick, which equates to Anthony Davis.

This is not about the merits of Davis, and how good he actually is. It's about Davis being perceived as the one franchise-type player in the draft. Where have we seen this before?

The lottery first appeared in 1985 because of allegations that teams were losing games on purpose late in the season to secure the first pick.

The NBA is the only league where the team with the worst record doesn't automatically end up with the first selection. Some strange things have happened because of that.

In the first draft lottery, when the NBA was using envelopes that resembled record album covers, the New York Knicks miraculously ended up with the first pick under very suspicious circumstances.

Some way or the other, it was thought that the Knicks envelope was made to stand out to the selector so the Knicks could end up with Patrick Ewing, who was the consensus first pick that year.

Why the NBA would want him in the league's biggest market is obvious. Marketing is the NBA's middle name. That has been the focus under Commissioner David Stern's regime.

"See Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Tune in to the Chicago Bulls and Derrick Rose. Catch LeBron and Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat." You get the idea.

The envelope gave way to ping pong balls, but there is still a cloak of mystery with how the final combinations determine the winner. It's conducted behind closed doors and out of the eyes of the fans.

There are supposed to be representatives from each team watching the selection, but some of the outcomes have questioned whether there has been some hanky-panky going on.

In state-wide lotteries, you get to see the numbers come out. Why the NBA can't do the the same thing  I will never understand. It is the reason many fans and even team officials are questioning the results.

Cleveland benefited by having the numbers go their way so they could select home-town hero LeBron James. In their defense, they did have the most ping-pong balls, but how often does the team with the most balls win?

It was convenient it happened for them.

Since the NBA went to the weighted lottery in 1990 to favor the team with the worst record, that team has won just three times. It seems like the NBA has a way of manipulating the results.

Four years back, the Chicago Bulls were the lucky ones when they ended up with their own local star in Derrick Rose despite just a 1.7 percent chance of winning.

After so many down years for Chicago, wasn't it convenient the balls bounced their way?


After "The Decision" left Cleveland Cavalier fans disheartened, the Cavs were the recipients of the lottery spoils, despite having the eighth best chance of getting the pick. Kyrie Irving might not have made Ohioans forget LeBron, but at least it gave them a consolation prize who won the Rookie of the Year award.

The questions arose again with the most recent events.

It's not limited to just the lottery. If you go back to the L.A. Lakers second championship season with Kobe and Shaq, the Sacramento Kings were robbed in Game 6. If they won that game, there would have been no three-peat by the Lakers.

There are only two answers to what happened in that game. Either the officiating was dictated by the league--or the referees were completely incompetent and should have been fired.

There was no other answer.

How about the current Boston-Miami series when Dwyane Wade smacked Rajon Rondo across the face late in the game that all three officials somehow missed. If not for that, it's very possible Boston would have a 2-1 lead heading into Sunday's game in Boston.

Normally Boston is a marquee attraction for the league, but the AARP version they have now pales  compared to the hated Heat when you're looking for TV ratings. .

I remember when the Chicago Bulls were winning championships in the nineties. If there was a playoff game the league wanted Chicago to win, they would send out Steve Javie and his crew so that the game was called tight. That's another problem.

What is a foul? What is a travel? It's all up to interpretation.

How can you believe what you're seeing is real when there is so much subjectivity in how the game is called? Why does one player get clobbered with no call, while another player is barely touched and the whistle blows?

Sometimes if the official doesn't like your expression you get called for a technical. That happened in the current series between Boston and Miami when the Celtics received five "T's" one game. Some were questionable to say the least.

When the leagues' integrity is questioned--there is a problem. Former NBA ref Tim Donaghy went to prison for his exploits. He said officials were calling games based on the dictum from the league. He said he wasn't the only one.

You can question him as the lone rouge official. You can say everything I said here is circumstantial.

People have gone to prison based on circumstantial evidence, and a lot less than I presented here.

When fans and people associated with the game ask the same questions, something is obviously wrong.

It's up to David Stern and the NBA to come up with a solution before it starts getting compared to professional wrestling.