The NBA has a long history of giving certain teams an advantage. The most memorable was during the 1985 NBA Draft with the first draft lottery. The New York Knicks needed a center, and Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing was coming off a ridiculous senior year.
With a lot of money at stake for Madison Square Garden and the NBA, Commissioner David Stern froze the envelope with the New York Knicks in it in dry ice so he could easily identify it. The Knicks were assured the most talented player in the draft, and a future Hall of Famer.
There was also the Tim Donaghy betting scandal, where a former referee was arrested for betting on NBA games and giving inside information to bookies.
Donaghy alleged the NBA manipulated games via foul calls to favor one team over the other—specifically pointing to the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings, where the Lakers shot 27 foul shots in the fourth quarter of Game 6. ESPN's investigation report also concluded that Donaghy conspired to affect game results. This is more damning evidence against the league.
Just because the NBA didn’t address it, doesn’t still mean it isn’t a problem. The NBA is rigged.
It’s pretty rich when people cite Tim Donaghy as some shining example of NBA illegitimacy. That guy didn’t have an ax to grind or anything, right?
When people are cornered, they will say anything to get themselves out of hot water and shift attention to someone else. What is more distracting than to allege results for an entire professional sport are tainted? Donaghy was just a rogue referee who was willing to spew any garbage to get the heat off him, and nothing more.
Truth is if the NBA was rigged, Los Angeles, New York and Boston would be winning championships every year. And yet, we have Cleveland and Golden State in the Finals this year, with the Lakers and the Knicks missing the playoffs in recent years. As much as people want to believe the fix is in, the NBA is not rigged.
Sometimes, emotions get in the way, and people want to blame something for their failures. Just because things don't go your way, doesn't mean there's some conspiracy holding you back. Sometimes, you lose just because you're not good enough.
As for the infamous 1985 NBA Draft lottery, not everything is a conspiracy. The New York Knicks had a 14.3 percent chance to get the No. 1 overall draft pick—just like the six other teams that were there. Teams can get lucky in the draft without the league being rigged. It might be less exciting than a frozen envelope, but sometimes things just work out that way.