The NBA: Where Conspiracies Happen

So history did not repeat itself last night… or did it?

The NBA Draft Lottery has long been believed by many to be a complete and total sham. Since it’s inception in which the New York Knick were “miraculously” awarded the rights to draft Patrick Ewing, people have screamed from the roof tops that David Stern’s anti tanking invention is simply a way for him to manipulate the league, placing stud players in favorable positions either for their marketability, the benefit of the league as a whole, or for that specific franchise.

Starting in 1985, the lottery wasn’t anywhere near as complex as it was today. There were no odds and ping-pong balls in a hopper to determine draft order. All the odds were even and the non-playoff teams were simply placed in a hopper and their draft order picked one after another. The conspiracy here is the Knick’s envelope was marked, allowing David Stern the ability to choose it first and thus award the Knicks the #1 spot. Watch for yourselves. You can see the NBA head of security “discretely” chuck one envelope into the side of the drum and “inadvertently” denting the corner. The envelope Stern “randomly” selects? Oh gee… the New York Knicks.

There have been other questionable moments as well. The Orlando Magic won the draft lottery in 1992 and the right to draft Shaquille O’Neal. That wasn’t so bad. The Magic miraculously winning it again the following year despite having the worst odds was. Moving forward there was the crazy coincidence of LeBron James, the kid from Akron, landing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Seattle somehow landed the #2 pick in 2007 and being able to pick Kevin Durant, the player who would become their franchise in Oklahoma City a year later. The Bulls landed the top spot and Chicago product Derek Rose in 2008 despite having the 6th worst odds. A year after losing LeBron James in 2011 the Cavs snared the top pick.

Now the New Orleans Hornets get the first pick seemingly weeks after being bought by local businessman and New Orleans Saints owner, Tom Benson. What’s so odd about the situation is that Benson continually refused to buy the team at the NBA’s price. Once the Saints “Bounty Gate” scandal hit, Benson was more than willing to buy the Hornets. Immediately, everyone who followed the NBA figured they would win the lottery as part of a behind closed doors agreement between Benson and the NBA.

Sure enough, that’s exactly how it played out. It wasn’t even a surprise. Literally everyone saw it coming.

Now, while I’m inclined to agree with how fishy this entire thing seems, I can’t fully buy into it this time around. Yes, the NBA technically still owns the Hornets until June 1st and yes, you can very well make a case for how this fix was part of the deal, but could it really? Take a look at the rest of the teams in the lottery this year and you could make an equal case for a conspiracy had 4 or 5 other teams won….

  • Cleveland: Oh, the NBA is still making up for LeBron.
  • Sacramento: Oh, the NBA doesn’t want them to leave Sacramento…or… they just set the Kings up nicely for their new market.
  • Portland: This is the NBA’s way of making up for the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant debacle.
  • Brooklyn: New arena, new city, new team, new everything. They just wanted another powerhouse in New York.
  • Washington: They aren’t getting enough from John Wall. The NBA needs him to be a star.
  • Charlotte: Michael Jordan… enough said.
  • Houston: Sorry about that Pau Gasol/CP3 trade mishap in December.

See what I mean? You could claim a conspiracy for any number of scenarios that could have played out. So was it really? Probably not.

The fact of the matter is however, that out of all of those conspiracies, the New Orleans deal seems like the one that would be the most logical and makes the most sense. I mean really, the team suddenly gets bought by a guy that wanted nothing to do with them for so long and they magically get the #1 pick and the right to draft what many are calling the best big man in years.

The whole situation stinks of a possible scandal, but for it to be an actual scandal one has to be able to believe that the NBA fixes things like this, that they manipulate the outcomes for their own benefit. What next? Roque referees claiming they were told who should win what playoff games? That could certainly never happen. Oh yea… Oops.

Regardless, you can’t change what happened last night. The Hornets are going to pick #1 overall, they’re going to take Anthony Davis, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it short of uncovering one of the greatest scandals in the history of professional sports. Seeing as how the NBA Draft Lottery has been around for the better part of 25+ years now, I’d say that’s doubtful. If there was something else going on, it would have been revealed a long, long time ago. People like to talk.

So now all we can do is concentrate on the #4 overall pick for the Cavs and who they should take. This is a huge moment for the Cavs and their future. We have the stud point guard, now let’s get him someone to play alongside him. June 28th can’t get here soon enough.

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