The NBA is quickly working its way to becoming the top sport in the U.S. due to how entertaining it is and its success with fans. Nonetheless, like any successful sport, it is filled with exhilarating moments and, well, embarrassing moments. Moments embarrassing enough to make NBA commissioner Stern cringe, despite all the money he was racking in. After all, he was spearheaded the NBA’s initiative into accounting their role models and employees for their actions.
One of those events was so bad that Stern commented that “We take our obligation to our fans in this matter very, very seriously. I can tell you that this is the most serious situation and worst situation that I have ever experienced either as a fan of the NBA, a lawyer for the NB or a commissioner of the NBA.”
Although that event was bad, it wasn’t the worst because it stacks up at the top of this list.
15. League Referee Gets Caught in Betting Scheme
Betting scandals occur all the time in sports (rigged 1919 World Series anyone?), but to see it happen in contemporary times in one of the biggest sports in the world was absolutely embarrassing. Many fans became skeptical of the NBA after the story broke that referee Tim Donaghy betted on games he officiated.
He pleaded guilty and served 11 months in prison for his crime, spending the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house. Reactions were immense, with ESPN’s Chris Sheridan noting that “the general American public has been turning away since the end of the Bulls’ dynasty and this fiasco isn’t going to help bring it back.”
According to analysts, an NBA official can affect 75% of the outcome of a game if motivated. Learning this, many fans lost faith in the authenticity of many NBA games, especially playoff games.
Even Stern showed some contempt: “I feel betrayed by what happened on behalf of the sport, regardless of how protective I’ve been,” Stern said. “This is not something that is anything other than an act of betrayal of what we know in sports as a sacred trust.”
14. 1985 NBA Draft Conspiracy Theories
Most fans have the belief that the big market teams get more favor from their league’s commissioners and that came to the forefront at the 1985 NBA Draft. At the league’s first NBA Draft Lottery, the big prize was Patrick Ewing, a player who could make a huge impact on a struggling franchise, like the New York Knicks were at the time. When the Knicks’ envelope magically came out first, fans had a field day over the potential ways that the NBA could’ve rigged the decision.
We’ve heard that the envelope was hit to create a creased corner so Stern would be able to easily find it and we’ve also heard that the envelope was frozen so that he’d quickly be able to find it. None of these have been proven to be true, but it’s definitely something that Stern wishes never got discussed.
13. “The Decision”
No moment in NBA history was more vain than “The Decision” and it occurred on Stern’s watch. When LeBron James became a free agent after the 2009-2010 season, ESPN broadcasted a TV special where the NBA star announced the team he was signing with. The announcement was not made until 30 minutes into the show, when he revealed he was signing with the Miami Heat.
James received plenty of backlash for the egotistic move and the fact that he left his hometown team to play with a bonafide squad of stars did not help. James commented on the matter the following season, noting: “If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different”, James said. “But I’m happy with my decision.”
Stern was particularly unhappy with the way LeBron was treated after the incident, referring to Dan Gilbert’s remarks about his departure from the Cavaliers. “He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” Stern noted, showing support for LeBron’s decision to leave but not execution. “The performance was fine. His honesty and his integrity, I think, shined through. But this decision was ill-conceived.”
12. Marv Albert Pleads Guilty to Sexual Assault
For a long time, Marv Albert was considered the voice of the NBA. After all, how could anyone forget his dictating of Michael Jordan plays during the 90s, where he would chant, “A Spectacular Move By Michael Jordan!”
In 1997, Albert lost his credibility as a staple of the NBA after being sent to trial for accusations of sexual assault on Vanessa Perhach. To make matters worse, another woman testified against Albert with her own accusations of assault.
Eventually, Albert pled guilty to a misdemeanor of assault and battery. He had to serve a 12-month suspension, but Albert was able to return to the NBA for the 2000-2001 season. Still, the incident was not a good look for the famous announcer, and definitely not for the NBA.
On the matter, Stern said, ”It’s a subject we cannot avoid dealing with – setting standards for our people. Overwhelming majority are not only law-abiding citizens, with respect for the law, and they demonstrate it in their daily lives. But, unfortunately, they don’t make (the news). We have to deal with those that do.”
11. Magic Johnson’s Reason for Sudden Retirement
At the prime of his career at age 31, Magic Johnson suddenly retired from the NBA, shocking the world. As it turned out, Johnson had tested positive for HIV.
Though Johnson was dealing with a life-threatening disease, many wondered how in the world he contracted it if his wife tested negative. Untrue theories emerged about Johnson bedding other men and the most plausible explanation was that he was probably sleeping around without protection.
The embarrassing part about this incident is when Johnson returned to the NBA six years later, many players refused to play with him in fear of contracting the disease through sweat and cuts. NBA legend Karl Malone commented on Johnson’s return at the time: “Just because he came back doesn’t mean nothing to me. I’m no fan, no cheerleader. It may be good for basketball, but you have to look far beyond that. You have a lot of young men who have a long life ahead of them.”
Stern defended Johnson from the critics, looking towards the more important matters. Johnson’s agent Lon Rosen reflected ESPN that, “He wasn’t just stunned, he was devastated—for Earving. Stern understood immediately this was going to be a serious problem for the NBA, but his concern wasn’t about that. At that moment, he was only thinking of Earvin.”
10. Kobe Bryant’s Sexual Assault Case
Kobe Bryant stands alongside Michael Jordan as one of the greatest to ever grace an NBA court. That said, whenever guys like that get in trouble, the media is sure to amplify the severity of their situation—like when Bryant was arrested and accused of sexual assault of a 19-year-old hotel employee in 2003.
Bryant denied having sex with the girl, but after investigators showed physical evidence of the two’s encounter, Bryant admitted, “it was consensual.” Bryant also noted that the girl had provoked the situation and upheld his innocence towards any sexual assault allegations. The situation became even more embarrassing after Bryant admitted in front of national television of committing adultery despite being married—while beside his wife.
The case was dropped after Bryant settled in a civil suit with the accuser and Bryant has had to work diligently since then to rebuild his image. Stern said in a press release that the NBA would not comment on the matter until it was settled, but still, many times he pronounced the NBA expected only the best behavior from their stars and role models.
9. Michael Jordan’s Retirement Conspiracy
Many NBA fans were shocked when Michael Jordan retired in 1995 after a historic run that included an NBA Championship three-peat and three MVPs at the time. The official announcement for his retirement said that he was pursuing a career in baseball in memory of his late father. However, conspiracies arguing other theories emerged.
The most controversial was an ESPN sport documentary that argued gambling was the real reason for Jordan’s retirement. It noted that Jordan was swamped with gambling debt and even flirted with the idea of his father losing his life because of that. The theory further suggested that Stern might have convinced Jordan to retire on his own terms rather than deal with a gambling scandal.
8. Donald Sterling Racist Comments
TMZ released an audiotape of a conversation between Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, where he told her not to bring African-Americans to Clippers games. The incident provoked the NBA to conduct a full investigation on the Sterling and the tape. The audiotape’s transcript read:
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to? You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”
Sterling was fined $2.5 million for the incident and was also banned from the NBA for life, forcing him to sell the team to Steve Ballmer. Stern received plenty of criticism for his silence about the incident, with analysts noting that he had fined countless of players for offensive remarks but seldom charged Sterling during his time in charge, thus provoking the idea that Sterling’s behavior was Stern’s fault.
7. Latrell Sprewell: “I Wasn’t Choking P.J. That Hard”
During a Golden State Warriors practice in 1997, Latrell Sprewell became upset with coach P.J. Carlesimo after he asked him to put more effort into his passes. The result: Spree proceeded to strangle his coach for about 15 seconds, returning 20 minutes later for some more.
Stern suspended Sprewell for 82 games for the incident. Sprewell thought the punishment was too harsh, noting, “I wasn’t choking P.J. that hard. I mean, he could breathe.”
The incident cost Sprewell $6.4 million from his contract and his shoe deal with Converse. He never played another game for the Warriors and was traded to the Knicks for John Starks.
As with previous incidents, Stern remained rigid on his stance on incidents involving his players. “A sports league does not have to accept or condone behavior that would not be tolerated in any other segment of society,” said Stern. “Accordingly, Latrell Sprewell is suspended from the NBA for one year.
6. Isiah Thomas’ Disastrous Run as Knicks Coach and Manager
Many sports writers believe that Isiah Thomas’ run as manager of the Knicks not only destroyed them as contenders, but also damaged the team’s image towards fans.
During his time as manager, Thomas made the Knicks the most expensive and worst team in the league. When he was coach of the team, the Knicks went 56-108, and they were as bad during his time as president. Overall, the team went 112-216 during his tenure. He also lost a sexual harassment suit that cost Madison Square Garden more than $10 million.
In 2010, Thomas nearly returned to Knicks management. However, despite approval by Stern, it was deemed illegal since NBA team employees cannot be in direct contact with NCAA employees and Thomas was working at FIU. Stern took blame for Thomas’ near-return to the Knicks and commented, “I told them they can do it. And when it was announced, my guy said it’s not allowed. I blew that one pretty good. It didn’t comply with our rules and ultimately wouldn’t have complied with NCAA rules.”
5. David Stern and Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals
There have been many conspiracies regarding officiating in the NBA, but no game was more suspicious than game six of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers were facing elimination in that game and, somehow, the team shot 27 free throws in the 4th quarter to take the game. Many of the fouls were questionable and even US politician Ralph Nader demanded the league is investigated. Disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy claimed in one of his allegations that the NBA hierarchy was involved in the fixing of the 2002 playoffs and that they had green-lighted the manipulation of that game 6.
4. Len Bias Death
You’ve probably heard the story about Len Bias, who was the 2nd overall pick in 1986 that died after a drug overdose shortly after his selection.
Bias was hyped as the next big thing for the Boston Celtics and the team believed he would carry them to greatness the way Larry Bird did. Even Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski noted that the only opposing players that had ever caught his eye were Michael Jordan and Len Bias.
The reason this event was embarrassing for the NBA is because it exposed drug use in the league. The NBA had to reevaluate its roster of role models they promoted, cracking down hard on those who weren’t good examples. It also hurt the sport because Bias became the league’s biggest “what if?”
The incident also had national impact, with a federal law passing that allowed drug dealers to be persecuted for overdose deaths. Stern took a serious frame towards this incident, warning other players, “I hope this sends a message not only to our family, but to the family of man.”
3. Gilbert Arenas Threatens Teammate With Lethal Weapon
In 2009, during his tenure with the Washington Wizards, Gilbert Arenas got into an argument with teammate Javaris Crittenton over a gambling debt. To ensure Crittenton understood the seriousness of the situation, Arenas brought unloaded guns to the team’s locker room, leaving a note for Crittenton reading “Pick one.”
Stern did not find the matter funny at all, commenting, “Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game,” Stern said. “Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA.”
2. Spencer Haywood Puts a Hit on his Coach
During warm-ups for game one of the 1980 NBA Finals, Spencer Haywood passed out due to being high on cocaine. Coach Paul Westhead kicked him off the team and Haywood, in a fit of rage, put a hit on his coach through a friend in Detriot.
In an interview with People Magazine, Haywood told the story: “I left the forum and drove off in my Rolls that night [after the game] thinking one thought—that Westhead must die. I drove through the streets plotting the man’s murder. In the heat of anger and the daze of coke, I phoned an old friend of mine in Detroit, a guy named Gregory, a genuine certified gangster. I said, ”C’mon out here, buddy. I got someone I want you to take care of.”
He revealed that guilt and a conversation with his mother quelled his desire to commit such a deed. Still, there’s no doubt that the NBA brass does not want such a story to become viral, especially Stern, who wouldn’t allow Haywood’s name in the NBA Hall of Fame conversation, though he’d get elected in 2015.
1. Malice at the Palace
This is arguably the most embarrassing incident in NBA history and involved not just NBA players, but NBA fans too.
During a 2004 game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, a fight broke out on the court between several players. One of the instigators was Ron Artest, who after the altercation proceeded to lay idle on the scorer’s table. Then, a fan threw a drink from the stands at Artest, provoking him to jump into the crowd, starting a huge brawl that involved several players and fans. The fight even stretched to the court. After the game, nine players were suspended for a total of 146 games. Artest was punished the worst, losing nearly $5 million in salary and receiving a suspension of 86 games. Stern called the event “shocking, repulsive and inexcusable–a humiliation for everyone associated with the NBA.”
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!