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Real Or Fake? 15 Insane NBA Conspiracy Theories And The Truth Behind Them

There is a select group of conspiracy theories which are simply impossible to disprove completely and are almost too believable to simply be ignore.

The history of the NBA is riddled with conspiracy theories. While every major sports organization can lay claim to a number of conspiracy theories, there’s something about the NBA that inspires fans to cry “conspiracy!” whenever something doesn’t go their way or seems even slightly suspicious. In defense of those fans, the history of basketball on both the professional and college level is also filled with confirmed instances of point-shaving and other conspiracy worthy events that kind of make you wonder just how legitimate professional basketball really is. Still, there’s no way that some of the most outlandish conspiracies in NBA history are actually true, right?

Well, don’t be so fast to write-off the most famous NBA conspiracy theories just because they seem unusual. It’s true that there are many, many NBA conspiracies that were dreamed up by some very creative - or simply heartbroken - fans looking to stir up a little insanity among the masses. However, there is also a select group of conspiracy theories which are simply impossible to disprove completely and are almost too believable to simply be ignored. Whether real or fake, these are the top 15 NBA conspiracy theories and the truth behind them.

15 Markieff Morris’ Identical Twin Switched Places With Him During the NBA Playoffs

via sportingnews.com

The Conspiracy:

This is a fun one. After Markieff Morris suffered a seemingly nasty ankle injury during Game 1 of the recent Eastern Conference semifinals, he was suddenly ruled eligible for Game 2 and played quite well during the contest. Some have suggested that Markieff’s remarkable turnaround can be traced to the fact that his identical twin, Detroit Piston player Marcus Markieff, took his place during the contest.

Is it True?

It’s certainly interesting. The Morris brothers have admitted to switching places during games before when they were younger and the two even have nearly identical tattoos and similar playing styles. However, some have claimed that they have identified slight differences between the brothers’ facial structures and tattoo fonts that allow them to confirm beyond any doubt that it was Markieff who played in Game 2 and not Marcus.

14 Mark Cuban Paid Off the NBA to Ensure that Yao Ming Was Called For More Fouls

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Conspiracy:

Yao Ming used to get called for fouls quite a bit. He got called for fouls so often, in fact, that coach Jeff Van Gundy once suggested that Mark Cuban paid off the league to ensure that Yao got called for fouls more often.

Is it True?

It’s highly doubtful that this is true. First off, we’re reasonably certain that Van Gundy was simply frustrated when he made those comments and was likely just joking. Even if he was being serious, the footage just doesn’t match his claims. Yao did get called for quite a few fouls, but Yao also committed quite a few blatant fouls. He was a true old-school center in the modern era and he often used his considerable size to bully players in the paint. If he drew the occasional bad call, that’s because he was an aggressive player.

13 Michael Jordan’s Infamous Flu Game was the Result of Poisoning

via nba.com

The Conspiracy:

During the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan scored 38 points in 44 minutes against the Utah Jazz. This rather standard Jordan performance is made all the more impressive by reports which suggested Jordan was playing with the flu. In later years, however, professional trainer Tim Grover suggested that Michael Jordan was actually poisoned the night before.

Is it True?

According to Grover, the team decided to order some pizzas to the hotel the Bulls were staying at the night before the “Flu Game.” He believes that the pizza place had to have known the Bulls were staying in that hotel given how few hotels there were in the area and felt it was suspicious that five guys came to the hotel to deliver five pizzas. Apparently, Jordan was the only one to actually eat pizza. It’s a real tinfoil hat story features a few notable plot holes. Still, it’s not entirely impossible and Jordan did get very sick very quickly.

12 LeBron James Left Cleveland to Help The Cavs Draft a Dynasty

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Conspiracy:

When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010, he shocked the world. Not only was Cleveland his hometown team, but he was leaving the franchise without ever winning them a championship so that he could form a superteam in Miami. Of course, some have said that LeBron only left Cleveland so that the team could score some fantastic draft picks and build a great team for him to return to.

Is it True?

If the question is “Did LeBron James know that Cleveland was going to suffer some bad seasons and maybe get some good draft picks while he was gone?” then the answer is, “probably.” However, we have a hard time believing that he specifically planned to leave the Cavaliers with some long-term strategy in mind that would have allowed his hometown team to build the makings of a dynasty. Besides, this theory requires you to buy into the next theory...

11 The NBA Helped Ensure that the Cavaliers Got Three Number One Picks in Four Years

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Conspiracy:

There are quite a few NBA Draft conspiracies on this list and all of them share the same basic narrative based on the idea that the league rigged the Draft’s results. In this case, many have suggested that the NBA gifted the Cavaliers three first overall draft picks in four years following the loss of Lebron James.

Is it True?

1.7%. That’s not the odds that this conspiracy is true, but it is the statistical chance that the Cavs had of securing the 2014 number one overall draft pick. That number alone has led many to believe that the NBA was in on the Cleveland superteam conspiracy. While we will admit that the odds of one team being so fortunate in the draft so many years in a row are astronomically low, this conspiracy is undone by the simple fact that the NBA had no reason to really care about the Cleveland franchise in the long-term to this degree.

10 Paul Pierce’s 2008 Wheelchair Ride Was the Result of Him Soiling Himself

via youtube.com

The Conspiracy:

During the 2008 NBA Finals, Celtics fans gasped in horror as Paul Pierce fell down and appeared to be in serious pain. When the cameras showcased Pierce riding a wheelchair to the locker room, they feared the worst. Yet, Pierce somehow returned to the game and managed to play brilliantly. This has led some to speculate that Pierce was actually being carted off because he either desperately needed to use the restroom or had just accidentally soiled himself.

Is it True?

Absolutely not. This is a fun story, but any supposed “video evidence” of this accident comes from notorious troll YouTubers using highly circumstantial - or outright doctored - evidence. We’d sooner believe that the NBA scripted Pierce’s wheelchair ride than we’d believe that he had a horrible accident on the court.

9 The NBA Allows or Encourages Players to Use Performance Enhancing Drugs

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Conspiracy:

There is no single story attached to this conspiracy. Instead, this one is based on general accusations involving the NBA’s lax attitude towards performance enhancing drug usage. Basically, people believe that the NBA either intentionally encourages drug usage or otherwise turns a blind eye towards drug usage because they are aware how many of their star players currently use drugs.

Is it True?

To be perfectly honest, we can’t outright discredit this one. George Karl has outright accused the NBA of intentionally having a lax drug policy and NBA players like Chris Paul have publicly lobbied against the ban of human growth hormones. It’s also odd that there are so few performance-enhancing drugs in the NBA compared to other sports and that few of them ever affect major stars. This one is close to “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” territory.

8 The NBA Started Fining Teams for Resting Players So LeBron James Can be on TV More Often

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Conspiracy:

The NBA is a business, and it is the goal of every business to make money. As such, they occasionally interfere with the sports aspect of the game in order to protect the business. In recent years, they’ve cracked down on teams who rest their major players for the playoffs during nationally televised games. If LeBron James is to be believed, the NBA does this solely so they can keep him on the court.

Is it True?

James made this accusation during a postgame interview and went so far as to cite the way that the Spurs have rested stars for years without anyone getting in trouble. Well, that’s not exactly true. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs had been fined for this tactic prior to his statements. However, it may be true that the NBA started to crack the whip on this harder when the super teams started doing it more and more.

7 A 2012 Meeting Set-Up The Coming Golden State/Cleveland Rivalry

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Conspiracy:

During the 2012 Competition Committee, members of the NBA community discussed rules and regulations for the coming years. This decidedly unsexy event is typically responsible for forming the basic structure of the league. Well, the men who attended this meeting included two NBA team owners. Golden State’s Joe Lacob and Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert. Soon after these meetings, Golden State began to build a dynasty and form a modern day Lakers/Celtics rivalry with the Cavs.

Is it True?

This conspiracy is based on the idea that this meeting was a cover for essentially scripting the next several years of the NBA. Buying into it requires you believe that the league - or members of the league - control what happens in the NBA on a grand-scale. To be perfectly blunt, that doesn’t seem likely in the slightest. As for the meeting itself, none of the regulations discussed would have this level of power.

6 The NBA Gifted New Orleans Anthony Davis in Order to Sell the Team for More Money

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Conspiracy:

The NBA found themselves in an awkward position as the 2012 NBA Draft approached. They had bailed out the New Orleans Hornets and had essentially taken control of the franchise in order to negotiate a sale of the team. Shockingly, the Hornets so happened to win the NBA Draft lottery which allowed them to draft one of the best prospects in years, Anthony Davis. Needless to say, some smelled conspiracy.

Is it True?

We have to admit that this is one of the most fascinating NBA Draft conspiracies that have ever been suggested. For the record, the Hornets had about a 13.5% chance of securing the number one overall pick that year, which isn’t an entirely unreasonable percentage based on NBA Draft history. Also, it’s worth noting that the NBA reportedly had a Hornets buyer lined up before the Draft took place. Whether or not they included Anthony Davis as part of the bargain...well, we’re at least 13.5% sure they did not.

5 The NBA Screwed the Bulls out of their 1994 Playoff Run

via nbalife.com

The Conspiracy:

The number of “rigged game” conspiracies in NBA history is far too long to cover in full. There have, however, been a few supposed rigged games over the years that are worth talking about. For instance, consider the final moments of the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals when Scottie Pippen was called for a foul against the Knicks’ Hubert Davis that nobody but referee Hue Hollins seemed to have noticed. The Knicks won the series off the free throws this foul resulted in. Many claim that the NBA ordered for this foul to be called so that the Jordan-less Bulls would finally not make the Finals.

Is it True?

There’s no chance this is true. Pippen did bump up against Davis after the shot which is technically a foul. Granted, it’s a foul 99% of refs wouldn’t call in this situation, but it’s a perfectly valid foul nonetheless.

4 The NBA Introduced Composite Basketballs to Stop the Phoenix Suns

via complex.com

The Conspiracy:

In the mid-2000s, the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns were changing the nature of the basic NBA game. They were pioneering a fast-paced, small ball style of offense that was leaving teams in the dust. Just as they were finally starting to perfect this system, the NBA introduced a new “composite” style of basketball that severely affected the ability of players like Steve Nash to handle the ball as effectively. Some state that the composite ball was introduced in order to stop the emerging Suns.

Is it True?

As interesting as this theory is, there’s very little chance that it’s true. The NBA later admitted that they were wrong about composite balls and cite it as one of their biggest mistakes. It was their New Coke. Besides, the Suns were drawing good ratings with their exciting style of play. Why would the NBA want to stop them?

3 Michael Jordan’s “Retirement” Was a Secret Suspension from Basketball Over Gambling Charges

via espn.com

The Conspiracy:

When Michael Jordan decided to leave the NBA in order to pursue a career in baseball, he left millions stunned and devastated. How could the greatest basketball player that has ever lived walk away from the game in his prime? Well, if you believe some conspiracists, he didn’t. Instead, the NBA forced him to walk away from the NBA for two years due to Jordan’s supposed basketball gambling and the baseball story was just a cover-up.

Is it True?

As strange as it’s always been that Jordan just walked away from the game of basketball, this particular conspiracy theory is based on too many plot holes. First off, if the NBA was really determined to cover-up Jordan’s gambling charges, why didn’t they simply cover them up? Why force Jordan to walk away? Unless this was part of an elaborate behind-closed-doors settlement, we find this hard to believe.

2 The NBA Rigged the First Ever NBA Draft Lottery So that the Knicks Could Draft Patrick Ewing

via fansided.com

The Conspiracy:

The 1985 NBA Draft is notable for two things. The first appearance of the NBA Draft Lottery and the appeal of Patrick Ewing. Nearly every NBA scout believed Patrick Ewing could become the greatest NBA player of all-time. In order for a team to pick him, they simply needed to have David Stern draw an envelope with their team’s name in it out of a clear plastic ball. When Ewing so happened to go to one of the NBA’s biggest markets, New York, at a time when the NBA desperately needed New York to draw bigger crowds and attract bigger ratings...well, many felt the fix was in.

Is it True?

This conspiracy is based not only on how beneficial Patrick Ewing going to the Knicks would be for the NBA’s business but on the fact that the Knick’s draft envelope had a slightly bent edge that supposedly made it easy to identify. Others had claimed it had been put in a freezer so it would be cold to the touch. The reason this conspiracy is so hard to disprove is that the initial draft lottery was so poorly conceived that it’s easy to imagine how easy it would have been to rig it.

1 The 2002 Western Conference Championship Was the Most Blatantly Rigged Series in NBA History

via todaysfastbreak.com

The Conspiracy:

In 2002, the Sacramento Kings shocked the world by going on a regular season and playoff run that turned their seemingly pedestrian team into one of the best squads in the league. They even went up 3-2 against the stacked Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Then, during Game 6 of that series, something very strange happened. The referees began enforcing several bizarre fouls against Sacramento during key points in the game. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that the game was rigged.

Is it True?

This is one rigged game conspiracy that may very well be true. In 2008, ex-referee Tim Donaghy made vague claims which suggested that some of the refs working that 2002 playoff game were indeed intentionally trying to influence the outcome. The NBA has denied these allegations, but some have said that the refs might have decided to rig the game on their own in order to win a bet or simply fulfill a personal grudge.

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Real Or Fake? 15 Insane NBA Conspiracy Theories And The Truth Behind Them