The Best NBA Draft Lottery Conspiracies (1985-2013)
Maybe it’s the Oliver Stone fan in me that loves a good conspiracy and when it comes to the NBA Draft Lottery, there’s a long history of them. Last night was no different as another chapter was written when the Cleveland Cavs won the #1 pick for the second time in three years with just a 15.6% chance of winning. The Orlando Magic won the second pick, Wizards got third and the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets ended up at fourth spot despite only winning one more game than the league worst Orlando.
Speaking of Orlando and NBA draft conspiracy theories, let’s go back to the early 90’s, when the Magic selected the most dominant college player ever in Shaquille O’Neal and then won the #1 pick the very next year despite having the worst odds at doing so with only a single ball in a drum of 66. The Magic selected Chris Webber, then traded him for Shaq’s Blue Chips co-star Penny Hardaway and the NBA now had the most exciting and marketable young duo in the league for years.
The coincidence was just screaming conspiracy as people called David Stern the best GM in the world but coincidence is quite common in what seems like almost every other draft.
Is getting back-to-back #1 picks as big of a coincidence as the Cavs getting local Akron, Ohio superstar LeBron James? Then when LeBron left for South Beach, the Cavs ended up with the #1 pick the following year, which was used to draft future point God Kyrie Irving.
Speaking of point Gods and franchises in need of a new superstar, in 2008, the Bulls ended up with local phenom Derrick Rose despite a 1.7% chance at winning the lottery. Another #1 pick point guard that will be battling Irving and Rose for years to come is the Wizard’s John Wall. The conspiracy behind the Wall pick surrounds the death of owner Abe Pollin months before the draft. The franchise needed a fresh start with the loss of Pollin and drama surrounding Gilbert Arenas, so David Stern gave Washington a present.
As fun as it is to accuse David Stern of rigging playoffs and drafts, I really don’t believe in any of them and that includes the 2012 lottery when other NBA GMs were crying foul as the New Orleans Hornets (partially owned by the NBA) ended up with Anthony Davis despite only having a 13.7% chance of landing the rare big man, who just happened to be wearing a Hornets hat a couple weeks before the lottery.
But this is nothing new to Stern. The marketing genius has been accused of rigging the draft since the very first one in 1985, when Patrick Ewing ended up with the Knicks. Conspiracy theories include creased (watch him throw one envelope to the side) and frozen envelopes so Stern would know which one to grab. Gripping I know, but not as gripping as Lee Harvey Oswald and his shooting skills.
(UPDATE: The Cavs made the mistake of drafting Anthony Bennett with the #1 pick and despite having just a 1.7% chance of wining the draft again, they did! The welcome home gift for LeBron was flipped for Kevin Love).