The NBA has been one of the most popular sports brands in the world for many decades now. NBA Superstars are arguably the most followed athletes of any sports due to the visibility that comes from the game. No helmets and brilliant marketing makes the league create stars easier than other sports. The high profile success leads to fans pondering some of the things that go down. There have been numerous conspiracies to become popular online over the years. With the popularity of the internet growing dramatically especially over the past decade, the speculation regarding various NBA topics have become more interesting.
We'll take a look at some theories from both sides of the NBA landscape. The ones that have a chance to be true could shake the NBA’s history and legacy if they ever get exposed as being legitimate. Meanwhile there are a few that have zero shot of being true due to logic ruling it out. Each side will be examined as we take a look at the controversial history of the NBA with odd things to go down. These are eight NBA conspiracy theories that have a chance of being true and another seven that are totally false.
15 Might Be True: NBA Rigged Lottery For Bulls To Get Derrick Rose
The 2008 NBA Draft featured the Chicago Bulls winning the draft lottery and selecting Derrick Rose with the top overall pick. Despite having the ninth best chance in the lottery to win the top overall pick, Chicago conveniently pulled it off. The Bulls picked the hometown boy to become the new face of their franchise.
Rose helped lead Chicago back into relevance and even won the 2011 MVP Award. Injuries ended up derailing Rose’s career or he likely would have spent his entire career with the Bulls. The NBA may have very well rigged this lottery to help the struggling Chicago franchise. As one of the most popular teams in the league, they returned to the top tier of East with an exciting hometown Superstar leading the way. It's definitely suspicious that they won the lottery with such low odds that year.
14 Totally False: ESPN Has Stake In Big Baller Brand
The NBA subreddit of fans discussing the league recently came up with a new conspiracy theory regarding the popularity of the Ball family. People can’t get enough of LaVar Ball’s antics when promoting his son and new Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball. It seems like ESPN discusses the Ball family and the Big Baller Brand every time there is any news.
The theory grew in popularity when ESPN started airing all of Lonzo’s summer league games after rarely broadcasting any summer league games in recent years. This would be a conflict of interest but there’s no way ESPN would promote a shoe brand by manipulating viewers. The facts are that LaVar is something people enjoy discussing and Lonzo is a hot name. ESPN benefits from just having their shows talk about them and airing the games.
13 Might Be True: Paul George Lakers Tampering
Paul George joining the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency next summer is very likely and many people consider it to be a foregone conclusion. The Indiana Pacers recently filed a claim to the NBA alleging the Lakers of tampering with George. It does seem quite possible that the Lakers and George have broken rules by discussing potential plans to unite before he even enters free agency.
Los Angeles has made some big moves to clear up cap space with a great deal of confidence that they will acquire at least one Superstar. The Lakers are hoping to get both George and LeBron James. Everyone believes the worst case scenario is George signing alone. A report being agreed upon by most reports gives it plausibility that the Lakers and George have discussed a deal in private.
12 Totally False: NBA Instigated Kyrie Irving Trade To Celtics
The news of Kyrie Irving wanting a trade away from the Cleveland Cavaliers stunned us all. Cleveland trading him to the Eastern Conference rival Boston Celtics was an even bigger surprise. Between the fact that the two teams are competing for the top spot in the East and that they face off on opening night, many critical fans are wondering about how great this is for the league.
The theory here is that the NBA wanted to create competition in the woeful Eastern Conference by convincing both teams to pull off this trade. It will be must see television every time the Cavaliers face the Celtics and interest will be off the charts when they eventually face off in the likely Eastern Conference Finals matchup. However, there’s no way the league would go out of their way in such a manner to help the rich get richer. They want competitive balance and would prefer Kyrie in a location like New York or Phoenix.
11 Might Be True: Allen Iverson Received Preferential Treatment In 2001 Playoffs
Allen Iverson had the best year of his career in 2001. With very little help on a below average Philadelphia 76ers team, Iverson won the regular season MVP Award. Iverson’s success would only grow in the NBA Playoffs that year leading Philadelphia to the NBA Finals. The conspiracy theory is the NBA instructed the officials to give him calls in hopes of playing up the underdog story.
Philadelphia needed the maximum amount of games every round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs to reach the Finals. It took seven games to defeat the Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks getting through the East. Ray Allen of the Bucks even accused the officials of screwing them in favor of Philly. Iverson was the top story in an otherwise lackluster postseason. This is very much possible given how many free-throws he would shoot in these series.
10 Totally False: NBA Rigged Lottery For Cleveland To Get LeBron James
The infamous 2003 NBA Draft featured the Cleveland Cavaliers picking LeBron James with the first overall pick. Cleveland won the Draft Lottery and had no hesitation selecting the Ohio boy with potential like no one else in league history. Anyone could see LeBron would be a Superstar going back to his high school days. Many believe the NBA rigged the lottery for the hometown story of James playing in Ohio.
This is clearly not true as Cleveland was favored to win the lottery as the worst team in the league. Factor in how small of a market Cleveland is and you can tell there were better locations for LeBron in terms of marketability. The Heat, Clippers, Bulls and Knicks were all in that lottery. If the NBA rigged it, he would have gone to one of those franchises. Cavaliers’ fans got lucky when the lottery balls landed them the King.
9 Might Be True: NBA Wants James Dolan To Sell Knicks
James Dolan is considered one of the worst owners in all of sports. New York Knicks fans absolutely despise him for making poor decisions and quite frankly running the organization into the ground. The recent drama with Knicks legend Charles Oakley getting kicked out of Madison Square Garden during a game and now banned for a year put Dolan under the microscope nationally.
There’s a conspiracy theory that Adam Silver and the league is trying to convince Dolan to sell the team. New York is arguably the biggest sports market but the team has not been a contender in over fifteen years. This makes perfect sense if true as the Knicks probably will never be great until someone with more of a vision is running the show.
8 Totally False: David Stern Tried To Ruin Lakers
Former NBA Commissioner David Stern stepped in when the Los Angeles Lakers almost acquired Chris Paul to add to the core of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Stern shut down the deal that both teams agreed to. According to Stern, the New Orleans Pelicans weren’t being fairly compensated for trading their Superstar. Paul ended up being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for a worse deal.
The conspiracy there here is that Stern was sick of the Lakers dominating the Western Conference and wanted to prevent them from winning more rings. This makes no sense given how good it is for the NBA when the Lakers are at the top of the league. The polarizing reactions from the fans helps add to the ratings and overall interest.
7 Might Be True: Kevin Durant Plans To Head Back To OKC
Kevin Durant is coming off the high of winning the 2017 NBA Finals and NBA Finals MVP. The Golden State Warriors appear to be the home for Durant for at least the next few years. Durant however likely won’t spend the rest of his career there. There’s a theory going around that Durant plans to re-join the Oklahoma City Thunder after his dynasty in Golden State ends.
This would be a similar situation to LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers and leading them to a title. Durant coming back to the Thunder would just improve his legacy. It is quite possible this happens. Durant gets to keep his rings and legacy from a potential Warriors dynasty to winning back the fans that he broke the hearts of.
6 Totally False: NBA Influenced LeBron To Go Back To Cleveland
As mentioned above, LeBron James returning back to the Cleveland Cavaliers after spending four years on the Miami Heat shocked the league. It was one of the biggest stories in recent memory and changed the landscape. Many fans believed this was orchestrated by the NBA to change James’ perception from being hated to a loved figure again.
LeBron claimed his goal for returning was to bring home a title to Cleveland and he accomplished it. The biggest argument against this is the genuine emotion James showed when the Cavaliers officially defeated the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Championship. LeBron breaking down crying proved how much it meant to him and he clearly didn’t need any influence into coming back for it. This conspiracy is clearly off the mark.
5 Might Be True: NBA Rigged Lottery For Knicks To Get Patrick Ewing
The 1985 NBA Draft featured Patrick Ewing getting selected first overall by the New York Knicks. Ewing was the top prospect and the Knicks needed some star power to find relevance again. This was coincidentally the first ever Draft Lottery to decide who gets the top overall pick via the lottery balls. A lot of people were dismayed at this idea and it looked bad that the Knicks won the lottery.
Ewing would never bring an NBA Championship to New York but he brought popularity to the franchise by making them good again. This conspiracy theory is actually more likely than not given the variables. The Knicks getting a Superstar during the first ever Draft Lottery is clearly a viable theory. No one has ever admitted it but most fans believe it.
4 Totally False: Jazz Let Kobe Bryant Score 60 Points In Retirement Game
Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game was one of the most surreal nights we’d ever witnessed on a basketball court. Following a disappointing season, Bryant retired in dramatic fashion by scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz. The high scoring volume wasn’t enough as Bryant also hit the game-winning shot after leading the Los Angeles Lakers back after losing all game.
Given Kobe’s age and the improbability of the situation, a small percentage of NBA fans assumed this was rigged to help create a special moment. Utah played hard all game and clearly tried on the final few possessions. Heading into the game, the Jazz believed they had a shot at the playoffs. Bryant just had luck on his side and used his incredible clutch gene to hang it up in incredible fashion.
3 Might Be True: NBA Rigged Kings/Lakers WCF
The 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings remains one of the most controversial series in NBA history. Sacramento outplayed Los Angeles in a close series taking a 3-2 series lead before it all went downhill. Game 6 was officiated strangely with the Lakers getting way more questionable calls in their favor. Los Angeles shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter to pull off the win.
The Lakers eventually won Game 7 and Kings fans have lived with the heartbreak since the series ended. Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy claimed the league instructed him and other referees to help the Lakers. The end game was getting a high profile Game 7 between the two biggest rivals in the game. This one appears to be completely true and Sacramento is forced to always remember it.
2 Totally False: NBA Forced 2016 NBA Finals Game 7
The 2016 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors gave us an iconic series for the ages. Cleveland came back from down 3-1 to win in a shocking Game 7 road victory. Two specific incidents led to fans wondering the league rigged it to set up a winner take all deciding game. Draymond Green was suspending for Game 5 after too many flagrant fouls and Ayesha Curry claimed the league was rigged after Stephen Curry was fouled out in Game 6.
Cleveland however deserves all the credit for that comeback. No one told Green to continuously make dirty plays all postseason. Game 6 saw the Cavaliers dominate long before Curry was ejected. It was sour grapes from Ayesha and Warriors fans. The incredible play of LeBron James is what caused the Warriors to collapse, not the NBA trying to set it up.
1 Might Be True: Michael Jordan Retired To Avoid Punishment For Gambling
Michael Jordan is still the popular answer as the greatest NBA star of all-time. The era of dominance in the 90s saw Jordan lead the Chicago Bulls to have two separate three-peat runs. Jordan retired for a year and a half in between that time frame allowing the Houston Rockets to win it all both seasons. Many fans believe the Bulls would have won all eight titles in that time frame if Jordan didn’t leave to try playing baseball.
There’s a very popular conspiracy theory that Jordan left the NBA due to his gambling habits catching up to him. The theory goes that Jordan and David Stern agreed he would retire for a few seasons so he would avoid having to be suspended. Considering how rare the situation of an iconic athlete leaving his sport at his prime is, this theory has legs and could easily be true.