NBA Conspiracy Theory: The 1985 NBA Draft

In this article we will highlight a well-renowned conspiracy theory related to the 1985 NBA draft. Know about the highlights and the information.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has faced numerous criticisms from sports publications, enthusiasts, and even its own players. In this article we will highlight a well-renowned conspiracy theory related to the 1985 NBA draft.

NBA Draft

The NBA Draft Lottery was used for the first time in the 1985 NBA Draft. Prior to that year, the first grab in the draught was decided by a coin flip between the teams that had the worst record in every conference. The Golden State Warriors, who portray the San Francisco Bay Area, had one of the worst records in the NBA during the 1984-85 season and would have had the first draught pick under the old regime. The same year, Georgetown centre Patrick Ewing was the presumptive first-round pick. The lottery was created in response to concerns that the Houston Rockets were deliberately playing badly in order to draught the best players, such as centres Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1983 and 1984, respectively.

The league had been using a system in which enclosed envelopes reflecting the teams that had the worst records were mixed in a tumbler and then pulled each one at a time by NBA Commissioner David Stern to ascertain which of those clubs would receive the initial grab onwards during the first live televised draught lottery ceremony. In accordance with a hugely popular urban legend about the 1985 draught, when all these enclosed envelopes were decided to add to the tumbler, one envelope was forced in and thumped against the rim, twisting the corner, while the rest of the envelopes were delicately set in.

Despite the lack of evidence to back up this claim, the large-market New York Knicks, who finished with the league’s third-worst record that season, ultimately utilized the first pick to draught Ewing, who would go on to become a team cultural icon and lead the Knicks to the 1994 NBA Finals. (Although the Knicks also managed to reach the 1999 NBA Finals, Ewing was wounded during that time). Nonetheless, the “bent envelope” fuelled theories that the result was staged by the league.

In reaction to the controversy, the NBA updated their system in 1990 to a more modern weighted lottery system, which gives the worst teams a better chance of acquiring the top three (later four) picks in the NBA draught. Nonetheless, the system was updated in 1994, when the Orlando Magic managed to land back-to-back #1 line-ups despite having only one lottery combination possible in their odds of winning it in their second year, and in 2019, after observing, the Philadelphia 76ers looked to lose intentionally for multiple seasons in order to get higher draught picks under Sam Hinkie’s system.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets had an equal opportunity of drawing up first overall in the 2003 NBA draught, with the Cavaliers eventually winning out. With high school basketball standout and future four-time NBA MVP LeBron James as the consensus number one pick in that year’s draught, there was some supposition that the lottery was biased in favor of the Cavaliers, owing to James’s ties to nearby Akron, Ohio.

Having followed James’ departure for the Miami Heat in 2010, the Cavaliers were embroiled in further supposition about having won three of four NBA draughts between 2011 and 2014, some of which also included the possibility of LeBron James restoring to the Cavaliers entirely from these draughts; James would eventually return to Cleveland in 2014.

Despite possessing a 1.6% chance of getting the number one pick, which many expected to be Chicago native Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls were bestowed the first overall pick and choose Rose as the first pick. Rose would go on to clinch NBA Rookie of the Year in 2008-09 and NBA MVP in 2010-2011 while contributing the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals that same year.

The New Orleans Hornets secured the first overall pick in the 2012 draught. Prior to the draught, the Hornets were a league-owned team, fuelling ongoing conspiracy theories about the lottery system. Further doubts were elevated in 2016 and 2017, when former 76ers player Dikembe Mutombo applauded Philadelphia for a slightly earlier victory the first overall pick in the 2016 draught via Twitter and eventually hired Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, and coach Luke Walton stated that the Lakers would get a top 3 pick in the 2017 draught despite possessing, higher odds of losing the pick to Philadelphia weeks before the draught lottery even began that year.

The latter selection also put the Lakers in prime position to sign Lonzo Ball, a standout high school and college point guard from neighbouring Chino Hills, California, whose father, LaVar, talked about him joining the Lakers months before the event.

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