Ever since the NBA lottery debuted in 1985, there have been theories . . .
Frozen envelopes. Secret meetings. Drawings that no one witnessed except some guy in a suit who we are told is an "impartial" party, much like the audience members chosen at "random" to help a magician.
Let me come out right away and stop the conspiracy theorists: The NBA Draft Lottery is NOT rigged. I'm 99.9% sure of it.
OK, so in 1985, the first lottery saw Patrick Ewing (arguably the decade's most dominant college player) land in New York City. They were a longshot (14% chance), but it was hardly a Mega-Millions ticket.
In 1992, the ping pong balls bounced Orlando's way as they selected Shaquille O'Neal. Amazing luck! But that was nothing compared to the following year when the Magic won AGAIN and selected Chris Webber (who was immediately traded for Penny Hardaway). Orlando instantly became the top young team in the league. Odds of winning those two drawings? 1 in 666.
666?! It doesn't sound like the Magic made a deal with David Stern! It sounds like they made a deal with the devil!
Still, I'm 95% sure the lottery isn't rigged . . .
In 1998, Michael Jordan finished off his second three-peat and rode off into the sunset. Basketball's greatest player and most iconic figure was gone, and so were the Bulls' winning ways. The year after MJ's departure, Chicago went 13-37.
But lucky for them (the NBA's third-biggest market), the Bulls won the lottery!
Conspiracy theorists would point to Jordan for their next case, three years later. MJ was now an executive with the Washington Wizards, and TV ratings were at their lowest point in 20 years. There were rumors that Jordan could return to the court, and he did, right at the time his Wizards won the Draft Lottery.
Coincidence? I think so. . . I'm still 85% sure the lottery isn't rigged.
In 2002, as David Stern was trying to get his game to go global, Yao Ming was the top prize available. He landed in Houston, who defied their 8-percent odds to win the lottery. Yao joined the NBA's 4th largest Chinese market, and his jersey quickly became the top seller in the league.
In 2003, the Cavaliers won the right to draft their hometown hero, LeBron James.
In 2008, the Chicago Bulls won the right to draft their hometown hero, Derrick Rose.
The odds of both those teams winning the lottery in those particular years? 1 in 455.
Fishy? I guess. But I'm still 75% sure the lottery isn't rigged . . .
In 2010, when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, the Cavaliers took their talents back to the lottery. Lucky for them, the most sympathetic team in the NBA now had a reason to smile again. They won the lottery, and basketball was reborn on Lake Erie.
Which brings us up to this week, and the New Orleans Hornets . . .
Sure, it looks bad that the only league-owned team won the lottery. That's pretty much like having a parent draw their own 50-50 ticket at a high school basketball game.
And yes, the NBA struggled to find a buyer, and it felt great to have new owner Tom Benson on hand to witness the luck. But the NBA wouldn't go so far to actually rig the lottery, right?
No way! I'm 51% sure of it!
But just for the fun of it, take a look at the picture at the top of this blog, which was posted online two weeks ago. It shows future number one pick Anthony Davis wearing . . . wait . . . is that a Hornets hat?!
So you're telling me the top pick was wearing his future team's hat before his future team actually won the lottery?!
With psychic skills like that, maybe Davis should quit worrying about the Draft Lottery and start playing the real lottery!
Hmm . . . even with all the evidence . . . there's no way a league would actually fix the draft! Time to settle it once and for all:
Heads the Draft Lottery is rigged, tails it's not . . .