Debunking the 10 Biggest Conspiracy Theories in the NBA

Stephen FenechCorrespondent IJune 22, 2012

Debunking the 10 Biggest Conspiracy Theories in the NBA

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    The NBA is no stranger to insane conspiracy theories due to the unpredictable nature of the sport and from their draft lottery. 

    The draft lottery in itself gets all those who like a good conspiracy theory into a fervor. All of the teams that missed the playoffs the year before have a chance to win and as should be expected, there have been quite a few surprising results. 

    The problem with lottery conspiracy theories is that you could spin a conspiracy theory about any team that wins the lottery. 

    Like all major sports, officiating often plays a role in who wins in some circumstances. NBA plays happen so quickly because the players are world-class athletes. 

    Sometimes, plays happen so fast that officials miss obvious calls or make bad decisions on what fans consider to be simple calls. 

    The speed of an NBA game is remarkable, and officials are human and are going to make some errors. 

    There have been a few instances in which referees have been blamed for the outcome of an entire playoff series, and some have gone far enough to say that officials have fixed games. 

    Here are some more conspiracy theories that are simply absurd. 

The 2012 Draft Lottery

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    Most experts agree that Anthony Davis is by far the best prospect in this year's draft class. He is the only player in this year's class that is regarded to have true franchise changing ability, so GM's that had a chance at the No. 1 pick were salivating at the chance of landing him.

    The New Orleans Hornets, who had a 13.7 percent of obtaining the first pick, wound up winning the lottery and the right to draft Anthony Davis with the first overall selection. 

    Take into account that the NBA technically still owns the Hornets, and one can see how this is a dream scenario for those who love a good conspiracy theory. 

    However, if you think about the facts of the situation, it quickly becomes clear that it doesn't make sense to believe that the NBA fixed this year's lottery. 

    New Orleans is one of the smallest markets in the NBA, so why would they want to send a potential superstar there? 

    It would have made far more sense for the NBA to have the Brooklyn Nets or Charlotte Bobcats win the lottery. 

    The Nets are moving into a brand new arena in Brooklyn and are desperate to keep star point guard Deron Williams from leaving via free agency. Adding Anthony Davis to the roster would probably have been enough to convince Williams to sign an extension with the team. 

    The Charlotte Bobcats are owned by the greatest player to ever step foot on a basketball court, Michael Jordan. 

    Everyone knows who Jordan is, and any team that is connected to him is sure to be easy to market. 

    It would have made far more sense to send Davis to anywhere but New Orleans, but since the NBA owns the Hornets for the time being, conspiracy theorists will see this as another attempt to disrupt the competitive balance of the league. 

The 2011 NBA Draft Lottery

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers lost hometown superstar LeBron James in the summer of 2010, and without him they finished an Eastern Conference worst 19-63. 

    They had the second best chance at winning the lottery with their pick, but it turned out that the pick they received from the Los Angeles Clippers won the lottery. 

    The Clippers pick had just a 2.8 percent chance to earn the first pick, but that is exactly what happened. 

    In hindsight, the Cavs definitely got the better end of the trade, as they sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and their first-round pick.

    At the time, some argued that it was too much of a coincidence that the Cavs landed the first pick a year after James spurned them for Miami. 

    The truth is that the Cavs were fortunate that the Clippers pick won the lottery because it allowed them to draft Kyrie Irving, who won this season's Rookie of the Year award. 

    The lottery wasn't fixed. If it was then the Cavs would have landed the second overall selection with their pick. If they did, it would not have been questioned because that is where the odds had them landing. 

    Instead, they landed the fourth pick to pair with the first, and their rebuilding efforts in the post-LeBron era have gone well thus far. 

The No-Call at the End of Game 2 of This Year's Finals

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    In Game 2, with the Miami Heat up by two points with just 10 seconds left on the clock, Kevin Durant was closely guarded by LeBron James in the lower defensive box—a dream situation for any true NBA fan. Durant missed the shot, but LeBron clearly made contact that affected Durant's shot, and a foul should have been called. 

    As history shows, the Heat went on to win the game and the NBA title. 

    Take into account that Durant is one of the most beloved players in the NBA, and LeBron is one of the most disliked and this situation represented the perfect storm.

    There was public outrage for the missed call because the majority of the public doesn't want to see LeBron succeed. If it had been the other way around, and Durant had gotten away with a foul against James, the outcry wouldn't have been as severe. 

    The reason for the no-call was the referee's position, as he wasn't in a spot where he could clearly see the contact that LeBron made. 

    This wasn't the NBA's attempt to help LeBron win his first championship, but since the official made a mistake, the no-call will go down as one of the most scrutinized plays in recent memory. 

The NBA Cares More About Market Size Than the Competitiveness of a Series

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    Teams that play in big markets tend to draw bigger television ratings, which leads to more money for the NBA. So it makes sense that the NBA would prefer it when two large market teams meet in the playoffs. 

    However, former CBS sports president Neal Pilson said the following about what is best for the NBA.

    "There is little financial benefit in the matchup of the teams," said Pilson, now president of Pilson Communications, a television consulting firm. "Ratings are a factor, but the 'conspiracy theory' misses the whole point. It has nothing to do with a great matchup, it has to do with the total number of games. NBC would trade a great matchup that's a sweep in a flash for a bad match up that goes seven games."

    According to Pilson, the length of a series is more important than the size of the market. This is due to the fact that the NBA makes more money from advertisements if the series is longer rather than shorter. 

    A competitive seven-game series between two teams in smaller markets is far more attractive than two big market teams meeting in a series that lasts just four games. 

    Market size does matter, but competitive basketball is ultimately what makes the league the most money. 

1985 Draft Lottery

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    The NBA used the draft lottery for the first time in 1985, and that year's lottery is perhaps the most scrutinized to this day. 

    In 1985, Patrick Ewing was considered to be one of the best prospects to come out of college in the past few years. The Georgetown product dominated the college game the year before and appeared to be ready to continue his progression in the NBA. 

    One of the league's marquee franchises, the New York Knicks, were in dire straights and had just finished a season in which they went 24-58. They desperately needed a star to lead them out of the cellar, and coincidentally they won the first ever lottery and the right to draft Ewing. 

    Back then, the NBA used envelopes to decide what team won the lottery, and the last envelope to be selected by commissioner David Stern won the lottery. The conspiracy theory stems from the fact that the Knicks envelope, which won, had a bent corner thus potentially allowing Stern to identify it and select it last.  

    This conspiracy theory is different from the rest of the lottery situations on this list because it has a true aspect of human control, more specifically the control of Stern. 

    It is highly unlikely that Stern noticed that an envelope was bent, and only those who truly despise the commissioner would believe that he fixed the first lottery in NBA history.

    Ewing went on to have one of the best careers in Knicks history, but he never led them to an NBA title. 

The Cavaliers Winning the 2003 Lottery and the Right to Draft LeBron James

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    The 2003 Cleveland Cavaliers were terrible and finished that season with a 17-65 record, which tied the Denver Nuggets for the worst one in the league. 

    It just so happened that the most hyped high school player in the history of basketball was graduating and chose to declare for the NBA draft. To make the story even richer, that player was born and raised in Akron, Ohio, and seemed destined to lead his hometown team to glory. 

    As it worked out, the Cavs won the lottery and the right to draft LeBron James. 

    LeBron was everything they could have hoped for and more until he famously left Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach. 

    At the time, many questioned how perfectly it worked out that a young, super-talented player ended up on his hometown team.

    The truth is that the Cavs had a 22.5 percent chance, as did the Denver Nuggets, and were fortunate that their number got called first. 

    The class of 2003 turned out to be one of the best in history, as Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined James in declaring for that season's draft. 

The 2010 NBA Draft Lottery

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    In 2010, the Washington Wizards won the lottery when they had the fourth best odds. They had a 10.3 percent chance to secure the top selection and were in desperate need to improve their roster with a young star. The Wizards were coming off the Gilbert Arenas firearms disaster and their owner, Abe Pollin, had recently passed away. 

    The Wizards clearly needed the first pick in 2010, but so did the New Jersey Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings. 

    The Nets were coming off one of the worst seasons in NBA history, as they went 12-70 and rumors about the teams' departure to Brooklyn began swirling. The Nets were also on the open-market at this point and the NBA wanted to find them an appropriate buyer. 

    Don't you think it would have made more sense for the NBA to rig the lottery in favor of the Nets? 

    They would have looked far more impressive if they had been able to draft John Wall that year. 

    The NBA has never and will never fix the lottery—it just wouldn't make sense. Not only would they be breaking the law, but they would surely face million-dollar lawsuits from an array of organizations. 

Games 1 and 2 of This Year's Eastern Conference Finals

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    The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat competed as hard as they could for seven games, with the Heat ultimately winning the series. 

    In Game 1, the Celtics were called for an alarmingly high five technical fouls. At least a couple of those technical foul calls were very questionable and could have gone either way. 

    Rajon Rondo had a game for the ages, as he compiled a triple-double for the Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat, but it wasn't enough. 

    In overtime in Game 2, the officials missed a clear foul when Dwyane Wade hit Rondo in the face on a layup. Although it was a classic case of a missed call, viewers clamored that the Heat got yet another call in their favor. 

    A Boston radio host found the calls to be so unfair that he claimed to believe that the games were fixed. He implored Celtics fans to wear a mask bearing the face of Tim Donaghy. For those who don't know, Donaghy was the referee who bet on games he officiated, and he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his actions.  

The 2008 NBA Draft Lottery

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    Entering the 2008 lottery, the Chicago Bulls had a 1.7 percent chance of landing the first overall selection. 

    The once proud franchise hadn't been truly relevant since Michael Jordan retired after winning his sixth NBA championship. 

    Considering that Chicago is one of the three biggest markets in the country, it makes sense that it is in the NBA's best interest to have a respectable team playing there.

    That being said, even big market teams can get lucky—and that is exactly what the Bulls were to win the lottery. The first pick allowed them to pick Derrick Rose, who has been nothing short of spectacular for them. 

    He won the MVP in 2011 and has been the leader of a team that locked down the No. 1 seed in each of the past two seasons. 

    If the NBA were rigged, it would have made more sense to give the Miami Heat the pick. The Heat, due to the limited playing time of superstar Dwyane Wade, finished the season with the worst record and had the best chance of winning the lottery.

    Imagine how lethal a Rose and Wade back court would be. If the NBA was rigged, then Rose would have shared a back court with Wade for the past three seasons. 

The 2001 Eastern Conference Finals

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    Allen Iverson led the Philadelphia 76ers against Ray Allen and the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2001 Eastern Conference finals with a berth in the NBA Finals on the line.

    Unfortunately for both squads, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, were going to be unbeatable for either squad in the finals. All that the Eastern Conference finals did in 2001 was decide who was going to get slaughtered by the Lakers. 

    This matchup paired a big market team in the Philadelphia 76ers against a small market team in the Milwaukee Bucks. 

    Large market teams typically represent a larger fan base, which leads to better ratings, and better ratings make the people at the NBA office very happy. 

    In Game 5 of the series, with the teams tied at two games all, the Bucks' dreams of taking the lead in the series was crushed by two flagrant fouls and one technical. 

    Bucks star Ray Allen said the following before Game 6.

    It behooves everybody for the league to make more money, and the league knows that Philadelphia is going to make more money with L.A. than we would with L.A.

    Allen was not pulling his punches here, he was clearly saying that he thought the NBA had a reason to favor the 76ers. Clearly, this reflected very poorly on the NBA and it sparked another debate on officiating and how market sizes can affect a series. 

    The series wound up going seven games, and the 76ers dominated the Bucks in the finale by the score of 108- 91. 

    The two teams played a tremendous series, and it is too bad that this encounter will always be tainted.