The NBA Draft lottery is undoubtedly one of the most unwatchable events in sports. Honestly, it’s right up there with bowling and every Knicks game this season that didn’t involve Charles Oakley getting thrown out of MSG. The worst part of it all is fans never see the actual drawing of the ping pong balls. The mysterious nature of the closed door policy invokes some drama, but it also leaves the door open to speculation.
Without proof of the drawings, it’s difficult to believe the lottery results the NBA has announced throughout the event’s 33-year existence. Just on the surface, certain outcomes seem too good to be true. These include:
2003 NBA Draft lottery: The Cleveland Cavaliers won the sweepstakes to land Ohio native LeBron James.
2008: The Chicago Bulls overcame 1.7 percent odds to earn the right to select Chicago prodigy Derrick Rose.
2010: With the locker room gun scandal hanging over the franchise, the Washington Wizards won the lottery and selected John Wall.
2011: The Cavaliers, fresh off losing James to the Miami Heat, landed the top pick and added Kyrie Irving.
2012: The league-owned New Orleans Hornets won the lottery and snagged Anthony Davis.
The controversy has been brewing behind the scenes for some time, too.
1985 NBA Draft lottery Conspiracy
In 1985, with can’t-miss star Patrick Ewing on the board, the New York Knicks won the top pick in a lottery riddled with controversy. As the story goes, the Knicks’ lottery envelope was either frozen or creased prior to the event to ensure commissioner David Stern selected the team’s envelope. Getting a future Hall-of-Famer in the country’s largest television market was a no-brainer for the league. Since the NBA broadcasted the lottery drawing live back then, you can watch for yourself.
Sketchy, eh? It’s not surprising that the NBA conducts the drawing away from prying eyes these days.
Speaking of recent lotteries, the past two years have only lent weight to this conspiracy. Last year, former NBA player Dikembe Mutombo seemingly outed the lottery as rigged, congratulating the Philadelphia 76ers before the team had officially won. While it’s possible Mutombo was confused, as the Sixers owned the best odds to win the lottery, the premature tweet is fishy. With Philly general manager Sam Hinkie’s tanking process hurting the league’s image, something needed to be done. Sending young star Ben Simmons to the 76ers certainly wouldn’t hurt.
More questions than answers in 2017
Quite a bit was on the line for the NBA in the 2017 draft lottery, as well. If the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick dropped out of the top three, the selection would be awarded to the Sixers due to a 2012 trade. Furthermore, the Lakers would be forced to send their 2019 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic. These scenarios were a nightmare for the league considering the flagship franchise has failed to crack 30 wins in each of the past four seasons. Unsurprisingly, luck (and probably more) was on Los Angeles’ side, as the Lakers will pick second — behind the Boston Celtics.
NBA fans will never obtain definitive proof of lottery collusion. The league would rather have blood on its hands than risk letting an executive spill the beans. That said, with all of the money at stake, it’s really not hard to see why the draft lottery is rigged.