Did Paul Pierce's wheelchair incident during the 2008 NBA Finals actually have to do with him soiling himself? What exactly happens in those NBA Finals people refer to as rigged? And, does David Stern actually have racist tendencies?
Welcome back to more conspiracy theories with Jake, the only time in the history of the internet that outlandish rumors have been mixed with a legitimate skeptic and cynic willing to actually have some suspension of disbelief. That's what years of being a Brooklyn Nets fan will do to someone...
Really, our only ground rules for these theories is that they have to be interesting. Something like “Carmelo Anthony wanted a trade from the New York Knicks because of how Phil Jackson treated him” isn’t quite what we’re looking for. However, if there was a theory that “Carmelo Anthony wanted a trade from the New York Knicks because he learned Phil Jackson wanted to have the star divorce his wife or face a major pay cut”, we’d include that. I doubt that happened, even if Jackson lacked his normal Zen while with the Knicks.
If you’re ready to replace your Adidas cap with one made of tinfoil and prepare to make your thoughts felt on every message board known to man, join me on this journey to explore conspiracy theories.
15 LeBron James and the Cavaliers orchestrated "The Decision" and "Coming Home" in advance
Theory: Knowing that the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to need to retool and restock if they had any hopes of being a legitimate NBA Finals contender, LeBron James left the team in the summer of 2010 to help them get started on acquiring assets. Once those assets were in place, James would return in the summer of 2014.
Reality: Given LeBron's love for Cleveland and his desire to win a championship - both in general and with the team that drafted him - I could see this being a legitimate theory. Even on the Cavaliers teams that would make the Eastern Conference Finals in James' first stint, it was The King that did 90-95 percent of the work with guys like Mo Williams, Delonte West, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and an aging Shaq chipping in here and there.
But with LeBron leaving for Miami after the 2009-10 season, the Cavaliers were able to tank and sell that season, winding up with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson through the 2011 NBA Draft. 2012 brought Dion Waiters in the lottery, while 2013 and 2014 each 'miraculously' saw Cleveland land the number one overall pick each time in Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins respectively. LeBron couldn't have quite predicted that, but things went just a bit too well for Cleveland here.
14 Paul Pierce's "Wheelchair Game" was him soiling himself
Theory: When Paul Pierce left the 2008 NBA Finals in a wheelchair for 'cramps', it was actually because he soiled himself and needed to change his shorts.
Reality: The Ringer did a great feature on this back in January that debunked the theory for a variety of reasons, including shots demonstrating there was no staining of the white shorts nor were teammates Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine, both of whom the ones lifting Pierce, recoiling or hesitating to put their hands near areas that may have been soiled.
Now, is there a possibility Pierce legitimately had to use the bathroom and went when he was in the locker room. That's certainly a possibility and I wouldn't be surprised, if only because he was already in the locker room and could have used the time to tend to his needs, but I'm not buying into this theory.
13 Ersan Ilyasova is actually Arsen Ilyasov
Theory: Current Atlanta Hawks forward Ersan Ilyasova, either in a case of stolen identity or a name being changed for immigration purposes, is actually named Arsen Ilyasov.
Reality: This theory has so many different variables that I'm going to let Reddit user DangeslowBustle sum it up for us:
"On August 7 of 2002, an 18 year old Uzbek basketball player named Arsen Ilyasov crossed the Yurkish border, this man was never heard from again. A month later on September 9th, a Turkish man claimed that he forgot to register his 15 year old son when he was born. This young man was given a Turkish passport, and started playing in the Turkish youth leagues under the name Ersan Ilyasova. An investigation by Turkish authorities found no records of an Ersan Ilyasova that was born in 1987.
A year later, the Uzbekistan Basketball Federation sent a letter of protest to FIBA, claiming that Ersan was not a Turkish citizen, and that he was their player, Arsen Ilyasov. FIBA ultimately sided [with Turkey] and stated that Ersan Ilyasova was not Arsen Ilyasov."
This....could very well be true. It's also certainly very creepy. What's next?
12 David Stern hated black players
Theory: Several of David Stern's actions as NBA commissioner, including the dress code policy and strict sanctions on the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons following the 2004 Malice at the Palice, stem from Stern not liking black people.
Reality: Now, we don't deny that Stern has been called a racist for years, especially after instituting the the 2005 dress code policy. You know, the one which banned players from wearing aspects of hip-hop culture that include jerseys, jeans, hats, do-rags, jewelry, and baggy pants to games, on the sidelines, and at off-court events that included press conferences and charity events. In other words, if it was something Jay-Z or 50 Cent was wearing, you most likely couldn't wear it.
Does that mean Stern hates black people? I always looked at the policy as Stern wanting to steer the NBA towards a more business-driven standard, though I will say the way it was handled always bothered me because he came off as out of touch. As for the theory that Stern was too hard on the Pacers and Pistons, let's not pretend he had much choice after players were fighting fans.
11 Every Michael Jordan gambling story
Theory: Michael Jordan was suspended from the NBA for gambling, which is why he went to play minor league baseball for the Chicago White Sox. Or, Jordan went to play baseball because his father, Michael Jordan Sr., was killed for the future Hall of Famer's gambling debts. Or...
Reality: There are so many different theories regarding Michael Jordan's gambling that I don't know where to start, but the short answer is we know nothing and nothing has ever been confirmed. The official reasoning for Jordan going to play baseball, as far as we know, is his father was killed during a carjacking and the Bulls legend wanted to honor Jordan Sr.
As for the theory that Jordan was definitely suspended because he said he'd return to the NBA if David Stern let him back into the league, that was a player admitting what an unusual circumstance this was. When had a star player like Jordan gone to another sport entirely with aspirations of returning to the main sport?
10 Lakers-Kings in 2002 was rigged
Theory: To ensure the Los Angeles Lakers made the 2002 NBA Finals over the rival Sacramento Kings, officials were instructed to sway the Western Conference Finals as much in the Lakers' direction as possible.
Reality: We may as well revisit what Tim Donaghy, the infamous referee with a gambling problem, said through a letter by his attorney in 2008.
"That night, it was in the NBA's interest to add another game to the series... The referees' favoring of Team 6 led to that team's victory that night, and Team 6 came back from behind to win that series."
There doesn't seem to be much doubt anymore that the NBA did in fact do what they could to ensure viewers would get a Game 7. The Kings ended up getting screwed over, as their best team in franchise history were robbed of a Finals appearance.
And speaking of the Lakers...
9 Kobe Bryant's "knee surgery" featured PED injection
Theory: When Kobe Bryant underwent a knee procedure in Germany after the 2010-11 season, the future Hall of Famer had performance-enhancing drugs being injected into said knee.
Reality: If you look at things from a purely statistical point of view, Kobe Bryant going from 25.3 points, 4.7 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per night while worth four wins over a replacement player compared to 27.9 (but with a field-goal percentage dropping from .451 to .430), 4.6, and 5.4 per game with a VORP barely over 2 doesn't seem too significant. But, if you go back and compare the film from 2010-11 to 2011-12 - and then to 2012-13 before his career-changing Achilles tear in April 2013 - you'll see the way Kobe plays is much better, more athletic, and more spry.
So, what happened in Germany? We really don't know, though Kobe did say time after time he wasn't going to discuss the knee, how it was feeling, or what the surgery actually consisted of. With Vino now retired, maybe we'll hear about the process in a vlog or autobiography...
8 The 2006 NBA Finals were rigged
Theory: Whether it was to ensure Shaquille O'Neal won a title with the Miami Heat before Kobe Bryant and the Lakers did or because the NBA wanted Pat Riley's team to win it all, officials kept sending Dwyane Wade to the free throw line on phantom fouls, allowing the Heat free points and a win in six games.
Reality: There are enough differing accounts on this to where I don't think we're far from a tell-all book being published, but Wade has denied it, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has said he's done talking about it, and this series winds up getting lost in time because the Mavericks wound up beating Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and the Heat five years later.
Looking back, do I think the NBA would have preferred if O'Neal won a Finals before Kobe, especially given this was only a couple of years after Bryant's sexual assault case in Colorado? When David Stern was running the NBA, anything was possible.
7 Paul George slept with Roy Hibbert's fiancee
Theory: During their final season together in 2013-14, Pacers forward Paul George was caught sleeping with center Roy Hibbert's fiancee, destroying the team's morale and Hibbert's confidence going forward. As a result, the Pacers - who were a legitimate NBA Finals contender - fell short of playing the San Antonio Spurs and Hibbert was never the same player again.
Reality: For his part, George has denied sleeping with Hibbert's fiancee, writing, "These rumors have got to stop! Its gettin old now and all you that believe them are ignorant! #Brothers" on Instagram.
As for the idea that such a thing ruined Hibbert and made him "forgot how to play basketball", let's remember the then-dominant center had already seen his struggles during the final months of that 2013-14 season. Could that have been from potentially learning his fiancee slept with a teammate? Maybe, but I've always thought it was because teams learned how to shut a center who could only score in the paint and grab rebounds down. I'm also no Dr. Freud.
6 Serge Ibaka is older than he looks
Theory: While appearing on a Bleacher Report podcast, ESPN's Zach Lowe reported NBA teams believed Ibaka wasn't his actual listed age of 27:
"Look, as uncomfortable as it is to say that, the league, not the league office, teams believe that [Ibaka] is older than his listed age. So whether he is or not, or what are the ethical issues of saying that, I don't know. But it affects the free-agency market for him."
Reality: Ibaka in July 2017 on his real age:
"I am proud of where I come from and of my heritage. I am also proud of the very hard work I put to arrive to where I am right now as a basketball player. I am very disappointed with the small part of society that spreads rumors and creates news based on stereotypes and without any proof. .. I was not born in the jungle."
So, it appears these rumors are just that, rumors. Without any substantial evidence to prove he's lying, we have to go ahead and take Serge's word for it.
5 The NBA was in on the 2016 Finals
Theory: From suspending Draymond Green when the Warriors had a 3-1 lead to several foul calls, people believe the NBA rigged the 2016 NBA Finals so LeBron James could win a championship in Cleveland and there would be a legitimate rivalry between the two franchises.
Reality: Can our answer just be the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead? Even if the fix was in on this series, the difference between the Warriors and some of the other teams mentioned on this list was how good and unstoppable the 73-9 team was. If officials are making calls they shouldn't or that are wrong, the Warriors were good enough to rebound - literally and metaphorically - and win.
I wouldn't be surprised if the NBA wanted the Cavaliers to win, but go back and watch the film from Games 6 and 7. What you saw was a Warriors team play poorly and a Cavaliers team take advantage. Simple.
4 The NBA changed the basketball to stop the Phoenix Suns
Theory: Reddit user PSChris33 writes, "The NBA switching to composite balls in 06/07 was a ploy to stop the Suns and discouraged their pace and space type 3 pt heavy play with how much those teams revolved around great shooting as the effects of the new ball were mostly seen in distance shooting percentages plummeting. Unfortunately for them, everyone hated it so much, they brought it back."
Reality: Apparently, this was a theory that had a little bit of traction, but there hasn't ever been any proof behind this. Would David Stern really change the ball of all things to prevent an offense like the Suns from doing what they did best? Remember, this is David Stern. If anything, he'd make it so teams had to hold the ball for a certain amount of time or face allowing an automatic two points to the other team.
3 David Stern rigged a Jordan-Barkley Finals
Theory: In order to get a Michael Jordan-Charles Barkley NBA Finals in 1993, David Stern ordered officials to call as many fouls against the Seattle Supersonics, setting up the Suns attempting 64 free throws in Game 7.
Reality: Now, this is something David Stern would do. Not only did Jordan's Bulls against Barkley's Suns set up an extremely intriguing Finals matchup, especially after Barkely scored 44 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, but they went to the free throw close to 70 times. How is that possible?
Oh, David Stern, keep doing what you do best...well, now it's advising. Imagine if a game like this happened today with social media? We're going to guess there's some truth to this theory.
2 Marcus and Markieff Morris switched identities
Theory: When Wizards forward Markieff Morris twisted his ankle in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Playoffs' first round against the Boston Celtics and returned for Game 2, many people he'd switched places with his twin brother, Marcus.
Reality: If you ask Markieff Morris about this theory, he's not likely to be pleased, as indicated by his response earlier this year.
“[The accusation] wasn’t funny to me. “It’s not one of those things that I play about in this type of situation, especially with an injury. With how serious I am about the team and winning, but I guess people got a laugh from it. We would never do anything like that. Plus, we are different. We are different players. How could you not tell? He’s 10 pounds lighter than me, way faster than me, he’s more agile. We have different games. It was funny, but I took it seriously.”
1 Every NBA Draft is rigged
Theory: Where do you want to begin?
- The 1985 NBA Draft had a frozen envelope so the New York Knicks could draft Patrick Ewing.
- The 2003 NBA Draft was rigged so the Cleveland Cavaliers wound up with hometown hero LeBron James. 2011, 2013, and 2014 all also saw the Cavaliers wound the #1 overall pick as to either get a replacement for James or prepare for his reunion.
- 2008 was rigged so the Chicago Bulls could finally get a superstar replacement for Michael Jordan in hometown kid Derrick Rose.
- The New Jersey Nets were prevented from getting the number one overall pick in 2010 (John Wall) because they were going to attract free agents in Brooklyn.
- The New Orleans Hornets wound up with the top pick in 2012, and therefore Anthony Dvais, because the NBA owned the team.
- If there's an NBA Draft, there's likely a conspiracy theory involved.
Reality: Only the ping-pong balls know.
Which of these conspiracy theories do you find the most interesting? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!