Whether we want to admit to ourselves or not, there’s something about a good conspiracy theory or rumor that really gets our bloods flowing as sports fans. These are the athletes, the games, and the leagues we watch day and night, that we follow religiously, and that we admire greatly. So when something goes wrong, when something out of the ordinary happens, our heads immediately turn to conspiracy, to the mere possibility that there may be a side sotry that no one wants us to know. All we can do is investigate, and of course, wonder.
Sometimes the rumors prove to be true, other times it proves to be just speculation. Sometimes we try to convince ourselves more than anything that something is true to justify it. Say your favorite team is a huge favorite and they lose to a team clearly inferior to them. That usually sparks conspiracy theories.
In the vastness and history of sports, there were many conspiracies drawn up in every sport throughout the year. Did Michael Jordan really retire? Who’s buried under the Giants Stadium? These are all questions we may never have answered. But that’s the beauty of conspiracy. It gives food for thought, but not much more.
20 UNLV loses to Duke
It was 1991 and UNLV were trying to defend their title from the previous year. They had gone undefeated the entire season and the stage was set for a repeat win. Facing Duke, who they had handled quite easily the year before, UNLV lost. That was all that was needed for people to start arguing that the game had been fixed. Also the fact that there was simply something off.
To fuel the fire even more, the Las Vegas Review Journal published a picture two months after the game showing a few UNLV players in a hot tub with convicted “sports fixer” Richard Perry.
19 Kevin Garnett told Carmelo Anthony that his wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios
Can you imagine being in the heat of the moment in an important basketball game, trash talking with an opponent, and then he comes out and says your wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios? Apparently this is what Kevin Garnett told Carmelo Anthony during a Celtics-Knicks game. During the game, we saw them getting into a heated argument, and Black Sports Online later reported that Garnett had made reference to cheerios.
Both Garnett and Anthony would deny repeating what was said, but Anthony did say in an interview “I’m definitely going to get a bowl of that, for sure.” Touché, Carmelo.
18 Jason Kidd was stood up by Toni Braxton for one of his teammates
Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson were supposed to be the two stars that lifted the Mavericks out of mediocrity and into the glory of an NBA championship. But it was in 1996 that it all came apart for the Mavs and their young stars, and rumor has it that the separation was caused by an unlikely source; country singer Toni Braxton. Now you may be asking yourselves why this happened. It is said that the country singer cancelled plans with Kidd to hang out with Jackson, reportedly causing a rift between the two players. Kidd and Jackson were both traded shortly afterwards.
Of course, the Mavericks were experiencing many problems besides Toni Braxton’s alleged man-swapping. Jamal Mashburn, who was on the Mavericks roster that season, said “we didn’t have enough camaraderie amongst ourselves, core values, and our egos were a little bit too big that we couldn’t coexist together for whatever reason it was.”
17 Mike Piazza dated male weather anchor, Sam Champion
There were rumors flying around in 2002 that someone from the New York Mets dressing room was gay. All eyes would turn to the now retired catcher, Mike Piazza. The rumor got juicier when he was rumored to be dating TV weatherman Sam Champion, who is openly gay and married as well.
The rumor was so widely believed that Piazza held a press conference addressing the issue, and had this to say in his autobiography: “I found it hugely insulting that people believed I'd go so far out of my way—living with Playmates, vacationing with actresses, showing up at nightclubs—to act out a lifestyle that would amount to a charade. If I was gay, I'd be gay all the way.” Classy move, Piazza.
16 Cal Ripken Jr. beat up Kevin Costner after Costner slept with Ripken's wife
One of my favorite rumors in the sports industry is the one where Kevin Costner, taking a break from making extremely mediocre films, slept with Cal Ripken’a wife while he was staying with them. The rumor states that Cal Ripken proceeded to kick Costner’s ass. Of course, both have publically denied this ever happened.
At the time, Ripken was setting a record for most consecutive games played, and the record would not have been set if he spent the night at a police station for beating up Costner. However, the game was cancelled that night nonetheless because of a power outage at Baltimore’s ballpark. And that my friends, is how a rumor starts.
15 Delonte West hooked up with LeBron James' mother
This alleged incident, which is in no way confirmed true, involves a mother. LeBron James’s mother in fact, Gloria James. The rumors started when West and James were both playing with the Cavaliers, and although it seems too far fetched to even say, LeBron’s play in the series against the Celtics in 2010 was so horrid that people thought there might be some truth to it.
West, on the other hand, has spoken about the rumors on the Dallas Morning News, saying this: “Number one, something like that never happened. I don’t know where they got that from. For a strong black woman like that, for people to try to tear her down, that’s terrible. That’s terrible in so many ways.” West also said this in an interview with Vice Sports concerning his son’s name: “I named my son Cash after Cassius Clay and Johnny Cash…His middle name is Delonte but I didn’t want to name him Delonte West Jr. just because of that… I don’t want my son going to school and people making fun of him for something his daddy did, “Oh didn’t yo’ daddy have sex with LeBron James mama?’ Man, I don’t want to deal with all that . . . ”
14 Wayne Gretzky in a gambling ring?
This all started when Gretzky’s wife and about another half a dozen NHL players were caught placing bets in a nationwide sports gambling ring financed by then Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet. The ring was discovered to have processed over 100 wagers worth over $1.7 million.
Although no charges were ever laid, conspiracy has it that it was actually Wayne Gretzky that was part of the ring, and that his wife took the fall for him. Gretzky was in his first year as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, and would have unprecedented access to Tocchet. Of course, because charges were never laid nothing was ever proven.
13 Lakers vs. Kings was fixed by the NBA
It’s Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. To this day, this is still considered one of the greatest NBA series of all time. This consists of the epidemic of conspiracies, and the first piece of evidence to anyone who thinks that the NBA is a rigged league. The problem in this series, particularly Game 6, was that the refereeing was horrendous, full of missed calls. Everyone watching seemed to agree that the Kings were the best team, yet the series dragged on to a Game 7 won by the Lakers.
Tim Donaghy, a NBA referee who was convicted of placing wagers on games he officiated, even said himself that the Kings were by far the better team, but that the officiating didn’t allow them to win.
12 Colts owner bet on the 1958 NFL Championship
The final game in 1958 is widely considered to be the greatest game ever played. Firstly, it was the first time an NFL final would need sudden death overtime. History remembers Alan Ameche punching the ball in from the one-yard line on third down, leading the Colts to a 23-17 win over the Giants. But why wouldn’t they just kick a field goal instead of risking a touchdown? Conspiracy theorists say that it’s because the Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom had a huge wager on the game that involved the Colts winning by a certain amount, and a field goal simply wouldn’t cut it.
Of course there’s also the fact that kicker Steve Myhra only made four out of 10 attempts that same season.
11 Favre flops for Strahan’s sack
What allegedly happened here is that Favre flopped and let Strahan sack him so that he would break the NFL record. Now there are a lot of factors that point to this being true; like the fact that Strahan and Favre were actually good friends. Strahan was also one of the classiest players in the NFL, and no one deserved it more. Also, Favre changed the play on offense at the last second. No one knew what was happening except Favre himself.
Favre was heavily criticized after the game for breaking an unwritten rule in sports; nothing ever comes free. Needless to say, they both denied the notion, and the Packers would win that game anyway, 34-25.
10 Curt Schilling painted his bloody sock
It was play-by-play man Gary Thorne that first said on air that the sock, which now sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame, was actually painted. Schiling of course reacted immediately, blaming Thorne for misinterpreting something he may have overheard. He also called him a liar. Thorne said that Boston catcher Doug Mirabelli told him that the blood was fake, but Mirabelli denies ever even talking to Thorne.
Of course there is not an inch of proof that has been proven, and it probably never will be. Schilling even offered a million dollars, payable to a charity, if someone could prove the conspiracy.
9 Tony Parker cheated on Eva Longoria with Brent Barry's wife
Tony Parker was married to Eva Longoria. You may think, would someone really be crazy enough to go behind Eva’s back? You know, the beautiful, tanned and lovely Eva Longoria from Desperate Housewives? Well rumor has it that Tony Parker was sending very personal messages to Erin Barry, wife of his former teammate Brent Barry with the San Antonio Spurs. The relationship between the two was widely believed to have been limited to simply “sexting”, but it may not be just a coincidence that both players’ marriages ended at around the same time. Longoria has spoken out about the alleged text messages between the two and spoken on the effect the divorce had on her.
8 Jimmy Hoffa was buried under Giants Stadium
Jimmy Hoffa is an American labor union leader and author who served as the President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union from 1958 until 1971. In 1975, at the age of 62, he disappeared. Of course there are many rumors and conspiracies around his disappearance, the most popular one being that he’s buried under the old Giants Stadium. The rumor was further fueled by a bump on the 10-yard line. The old Giants Stadium has now been torn down for Metlife Stadium, so this one may forever remain an urban legend.
7 Kevin Mitchell beheaded his girlfriend's cat
This is somewhat of a disturbing rumor involving outfielder Kevin Mitchell and his girlfriend’s cat. According to Doc Gooden in his autobiography, Mitchell’s teammate, Mitchell and his girlfriend were in a fight, and Mitchell then cut off the cat’s head to settle it. Gooden claims to have been there for the incident.
Mitchell of course denied this and confronted Gooden, but no harm was ever done. This is just one of many incidents that affected the Mets during those years. Mitchell, who was known for being a bit of a hot head, has at least never been proven a cat-killer.
6 Michael Jordan was actually hungover during his "Flu Game"
In 1997, Jordan was in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and something was definitely up with him. Not performance wise, as the legend would score 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block in 44 minutes of playing time. Dubbed the infamous flu-game, it is widely believed that something was up with Jordan during that game. It could well have been the flu, and that’s that. But rumors that he was actually seriously hungover started to surface, and Jalen Rose fed the rumor mill when he confirmed that he thought Jordan had partied too hard the night before.
His old trainer said that he was feeling the consequences of a bad pizza he had the night before. If that’s the case, Jordan would still be guilty of eating pizza before a game in the NBA Finals.
5 Glen Rice hooked up with Sarah Palin in college
Glen Rice had a long and illustrious career in the NBA, but this juicy rumor comes from his college days with the University of Michigan, in 1987, Rice was in Alaska for the Great Alaska Shooutout hosted by the University of Alaska. It was here that he would meet Sarah Palin. Today, Palin is famous for being one of the worst ever candidates to ever run for office as Vice President with the Republicans. Back then however, Palin worked at a news station and appeared on TV as an anchor from time to time.
It was then that the two allegedly hooked up. Rice remembers Palin quite well, saying it was all done respectfully and that he had taken a liking to her. The story came out in Joe McGiniss’ book entitled The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin. Although Palin never addressed the book directly, she would say the book was full of “disgusting lies, innuendos, and smears.”
4 Super Bowl III was fixed
This game of football is the one that many people can agree there was something very fishy going on. It was the Baltimore Colts against the New York Jets, and the Colts were heavily favored to win. However, whether it was just the worst case of luck or the game was fixed beforehand, the Colts went on to lose that game 16-7, and the rest is history. Many say that it was a simple case of everything that could go wrong, went wrong for the Colts, and that the Jets were just extremely lucky. But it seems too much for it to have happened out of coincidence.
3 Sonny Liston took a dive versus Muhammad Ali
To understand the conspiracy between this fight, you need to know about their first fight. The first time these two met, Liston was defending the title. Ali was nothing close to being a top contender. Therefore it came as a huge surprise when Liston quit the fight in the sixth round from his corner. After going to the hospital, doctors confirmed that he had a muscle tear.
Then came the second fight. Motivated to get back on top after losing almost all his money to the mob, and taking a beating in the first fight, Liston trained harder than ever to get into the best shape of his life. But then Ali got a hernia a week before the fight and it was delayed for six months. Liston allegedly fell back into drugs and alcohol and never really recovered. Talk of Islamic radicals killing Ali during the fight are also said to have allegedly pushed Liston to drop the fight, to get out of Lewiston Maine as quickly as possible.
2 David Stern rigged the 1985 NBA Draft lottery
To understand the conspiracy behind this, you need to be put into context. The NBA in 1985 was in a difficult place. Their TV contracts were about to expire, attendance in stadiums was dwindling, and a report by the Los Angeles Times that 75% of NBA players were on drugs. This was also a time filled with tanking, where teams would lose games purposefully for higher draft picks.
In comes Patick Ewing. He was hyped up to be a generational player. In a time where height and strength meant everything in the NBA, Ewing had the perfect physique. Considering where the league was at the time, Stern knew that the New York Knicks would benefit the most from Ewing. This was the Big Apple, and a player like that in New York would revive the entire sport. Then came lottery day, and the NBA had introduced a new draft scheme where the teams with a chance of winning were all placed in envelopes. It is said that the person tossing the envelopes in the contained paused slightly before the fourth, shot it in and creased the corner a little. Stern then chose that one, and the rest is history. Of course, this does remain a conspiracy.
Why would Stern do this? Well, the conspiracy theory suggests it would be so a big star like Ewing could go to the biggest media market possible.
1 Michael Jordan played baseball because of his gambling habits
There’s no denying the legend that is Michael Jordan. He was an offensive force, strong defensively, and a leader. He would lead the Bulls to six NBA Championships in the 1990’s, winning three straight two times. However, in 1992, after winning two of three for the first time, information about Jordan having a serious gambling addiction started to surface. It doesn’t help that Jordan was spotted at a casino in the wee hours of the morning the night before game 2 of the eastern conference finals.
San Diego businessman Richard Equinas also stated in his book Michael and me: Our Gambling Addiction, that he had won about $900,000 from Jordan in golf bets. After that, the NBA opened an investigation. After his third championship, Jordan shocked the sports world when he said he would retire.
Conspiracy theorists say that this was actually a ban from the league, but of course that remains a conspiracy. Jordan would come back and win three more championships, but the rumor that Jordan had also bet on sports, breaking an unwritten rule among athletes, remains to be seen.