NBA Draft: The Biggest Lottery Conspiracies Ever

It's a broad-brush statement but not any less true to say America loves controversy. We flock to the latest news about the athlete who did this or the politician who did that. A close second to controversy in the "get em talking category" is conspiracy.
The difference being we have to wait on someone to do something that creates controversy, conspiracies, well those we can just conjure up ourselves.
America loves conspiracies.

Is the government really hiding alien remains in Area 51? Do they know who actually killed JFK? Was the moon landing filmed in Utah? What about 9/11, global warming, even Elvis!
The NBA has seen its fair share of controversy thanks to disgraced referee Tim Donaghy and it leads every professional sports league when it comes to conspiracies. They have somehow survived Donaghy, but the secrecy and sketchy results of past draft lotteries leave them an easy target for conspiracy theorists.

A quick draft history lesson leads us into the top 5 biggest NBA conspiracy theories of all time.
NBA Draft History

When it all got started, the draft was simple. The NBA took the teams in reverse order of win-loss record and let them draft worst to first. Simple.

The NBA revamped the draft process in 1966 because, heck, it wasn't broken so they had to fix it. They implemented a coin toss between the worst teams in each division. That stayed in effect until 1984.

Why change it in 1984? Well it seemed that the team that ended up winning the first draft pick that year may have been guilty of intentionally losing games in order to get into the coin flip. The NBA frowns on teams not actually trying to win apparently so the coin toss was tossed.
1985 saw the implementation of the lottery system. Each non-playoff team would get an envelope with an equal shot at the first pick. The first team whose envelope was selected got the first pick, the second the second and so on. With each non-playoff team having an equal shot at the first pick and the fact that the NBA stuffed the envelopes in secret the envelope system was a magnet for controversy.

In 1990 the NBA decided it wasn't quiet fair to have every team with an equal shot at the first pick so they introduced a weighted system. The process gave the team with the worst record a better chance at winning the first pick.
Initially, that meant a 16.67 percent for the worst team. That was adjusted in 1994 giving the worst team a 25 percent chance at winning the lottery.
That is where we are now. Ping pong ball heaven.

5 .Cleveland Cavaliers - 2003

The Cavs were 17-65 in the 2002-2003 season. They were horrible. The team was bad, the draft lottery was created to help bad teams improve. Everything here seems legit, so, why do they make this list? Everything seems legit until you examine the 2003 draft. You see that year a player was eligible who had graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, as a High School Junior!
When the stakes are as high as the next face of the NBA, do you think the Association wasn't at least a tad bit interested where he ends up? LeBron James to the Raptors must have sent shivers up and down Commissioner Stern's back. Instead of a trip up North, James went to the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Hometown boy to the hometown team. The Cleveland Cavaliers are resurrected and the NBA has its new poster boy. Maybe one day he will even win a Championship!

4. Chicago Bulls - 2008

Chicago has a great NBA history dating back to their inception into the league in 1966.
Sadly, after Michael Jordan retired, the team has been in a constant rebuilding state. What the team and the city needed was a local player to come and inject some life into the team.
Hm, Derrick Rose was born in Chicago, was a pretty good player and was eligible for the 2008 draft. The Bulls only had a 1.70% chance of getting the first pick however. Seventeen ping pong balls out of 1,000. Poor, poor odds. Then again, wouldn't the NBA benefit by seeing a resurgence of the once proud franchise in the country's third-largest media market?
Hm, the needs of the league do out weigh the needs of Miami Heat and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Bulls scored the second biggest upset in NBA draft lottery history by winning the first pick and selecting homegrown Derrick Rose. Hm.

3. Houston Rockets - 1984

Before they developed the heart of a champion, the Rockets had to battle some sportsmanship issues. Allegedly. Even though they suited up the drafts first pick in Ralph Sampson the Rockets 1983-1984 season headed south. Sensing they had no chance to make the playoffs the Rockets opted for the next best thing; they worked hard to get the first pick in the lottery again. Allegedly. This was pre ping-pong ball era so all the Rockets had to manage was one of the two worst records in basketball. They went after it with fervor posting a 3-14 record in their last 17 games. When the dust settled they were in the coin toss and won. They used that pick to draft Hakeem Olajuwon. The Twin Towers were born and the Rockets went on to win back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995. Nothing like some on purpose losing to work towards a championship run. Allegedly.

2. Orlando Magic - 1993

The Magic were a .500 team the season before the 1993 draft and had won the lottery the year before. In '92 they selected Shaquille O'Neal and needed to surround him with some talent.
Going into the weighted draft lottery in '93 they had only a 1.52% chance of winning the first pick. Imagine flipping a coin 100 times and it coming up heads 99 of those times. The Magic were tails and yet, they won. They selected Chris Webber that year and quickly shipped him to Golden State for Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. The duo of Hardaway and O'Neal made it to the NBA Finals two years later. Did the NBA want to surround the leagues best center, the second coming of Wilt Chamberlain, with some talent? Or, was it just amazing luck that landed Penny Hardaway, who was as close to Magic Johnson as there was in the 90's, in Orlando with Shaq?

1. New York Knicks - 1985

The Knicks were bad in 1984-1985, that's undeniable. Their 24-58 record was the third-worst in the Association. 1985 marked the first year the NBA would grant the rights to the first pick in the draft via a lottery system which meant they had an equal shot at the first pick as everyone else who didn't make the playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle Supersonics and Indiana Pacers rounded out the teams vying for the cream of the year's crop, Patrick Ewing. Ewing to any of those clubs would have changed their fortunes, of that there is no doubt. Hypothetically speaking however, does a superstar really exist if no one is there to watch him play? Isn't someone with the star power of a Patrick Ewing somewhat wasted in the expanse that is Sacramento? Someone of Ewing's stature deserves the star power of the country's leading media market, right? Did the NBA see to it that their next big thing landed in MSG? Did the gentleman who placed the envelopes in the hopper purposefully knock the Knick envelope against a metal bar to create a crease that Commissioner Stern could identify? Was the Knick envelope frozen making it cold to the touch, once again making it easy for Stern to choose correctly? Most telling as I watch the video below is the moment after Stern opens the hopper to make the first selection. Watch him at about 5:26, he lets out a very loud sigh. Could that have been his "OMG, I am about to pull off the biggest con in the history of the NBA" moment? Possible. Like any good conspiracy theory, its up to you to decide.

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