The draw for the NBA lottery had just ended Tuesday night, and even before the first high-fives, I got a telephone call from a friend.
“David Stern rigged it,” he told me.
“Rigged what?” I asked.
“The No. 1 pick for the Cavs,” he said. “Stern rigged it.”
Not sure my friend, who has more than a fan's interest in the Cavaliers, hadn’t uttered similar words the last time the ping-pong balls came up in the franchise's favor. Back in 2003, the Cavs used that No. 1 overall pick to draft a man who anointed himself “King.”
He soon became the darling of sports fans. His jersey and Nike sneakers proved top sellers around the globe, and he promised fans that NBA championship banners aplenty would be flying high from The Q rafters. His “Decision” last summer to walk away from that adulation and abdicate that royal title left an opening for somebody else to come in and sit on his throne.
With so much princely talent awaiting the team with the good fortune to land at No. 1 overall, Cavs fans couldn’t expect the same good fortune to visit them again, could they?
That seemed to be my friend’s point, I think. It was too much of a coincidence for that to happen, he was trying to tell me. Stern had to have his hands inside the lottery machine and orchestrated its results.
Yeah, and President Obama is not an American citizen.
Bizarre things have been known to happen in politics and in sports. People do cheat; outcomes are occasionally rigged. NBA fans know the latter all too well after watching a veteran referee end up behind bars for shaping the outcome of games.
Rigging games here and there is one thing; rigging a lottery is an altogether different affair. Such action would take more than Commissioner David Stern alone. Stern wouldn’t risk the credibility of an entire league just to achieve a favored result. Why would other teams let him?
While Stern might feel the NBA owes Cavaliers fans for the unseemly “Decision” last July, he would surely know that putting a strong team in Brooklyn, where the New Jersey Nets will move next season, benefits the NBA more than appeasing the Cavs faithful.
A rigged lottery?
To my friend, I said nonsense. It didn’t happen. It wouldn’t happen, not even if that’s what Stern had wanted.
What did happen Tuesday night was serendipity. The Cavaliers beat the long odds against them. They were Destiny’s child. They were, of course, due a break—due a break for their franchise’s good, for their fans’ good, for their city’s good.
In a sports town used to misfortunes and betrayals and disappointments and failures, any mention of a “rigged” NBA lottery takes the fine edge off the white-hot excitement that engulfed the city like a firestorm.
Cleveland hasn’t felt this warm and fuzzy about itself since...well, not since the “King” himself arrived in ’03. It has reason to hope that the promise of yesteryear has returned. It can dare to dream of those glory days again—dare to dream of those banners that the “King” promised but never delivered.
That’s what the No. 1 overall pick portends for Cavaliers fans. They can bask in the glow of that promise, and they shouldn’t waste a minute pondering how it all unfolded for them.
Luck, a powerful force, is unpredictable. It can be an awfully fickle thing to rely on too. Sometimes luck is all a sports franchise can count on, all it and its fans can believe in.
That’s what I stressed to my friend. Think luck, I told him. I’m inclined to believe that luck reigned and that nothing was rigged to favor the Cavaliers.
I doubt I dissuaded my friend. He’s stubborn as a pack mule; he’s a difficult man to convince of anything. Heck, he might be the final holdout on Obama’s citizenship. I mean, I still hear people argue that it, too, had been rigged.