As I get older, my cynicism about the world around me grows more consistently with different life experiences and observations of varying occurences. I once believed that Santa Claus delivered presents to me on Christmas Eve. Then, one year, I found my mother wrapping the presents for the family. I was devastated. I once believed that people could believe politicians and policemen. Well, George W. Bush started a war that made his family a lot of money in conjunction with Halliburton, and inner city policemen are regularly found to be corrupted by dirty money in big counties. I was surprised and shocked that people doing wrong could do it so blatantly. I once thought that sports were one of the last, pure things that people could believe in. First, baseball was indicted in rampant steroid use, and now I believe that the NBA draft is fraudulent too.
This idea started for me with a different number one pick for Cleveland, but we will visit that later. The national attention towards the draft possibly being rigged began with a statement made at least partially in jest, by the general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, David Kahn. He said, “This league has a habit… and I am just going to say habit… of producing some pretty incredible story lines. Last year it was Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14 year old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin,’We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us and I was right.” Kahn laughed and smiled talking to the media, however he repeated “habit” for emphasis or potentially to dodge a big fine from David Stern, and he said that the league “producing” these story lines. I am starting to believe him.
I am no conspiracy theorist and I genuinely want to believe that some small miracles do happen for different people at random intervals. But, what are the chances that Cleveland who lost their savior LeBron James to free agency this year, get the first pick of the draft the following year even with two lottery picks? It can not be pure coincidence that the fourteen year old son of Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavaliers, who has battled illness for his entire life, stood in to get the news as a late lottery pick suddenly flew up the draft board to one of the top three picks. It is also no coincidence that the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had a terrible year with the loss of LeBron and a horrible, lackluster season, won the lottery.
The NBA draft lottery has had a history of exciting number one picks beginning at its inception. Here are a few:
- In 1985, New York, the biggest media center in the world, won the inaugural draft lottery. It was the year that Patrick Ewing, one of the most dominant forces in college basketball history, left school to play in the pros. “Surprisingly”, the New York Knicks drafted him.
- The Orlando Magic had two back to back number one picks in 1992 and 1993, garnering Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway. Shaq took a 21-61 franchise and turned it into a 41-41 ball club. With Penny Hardaway, the Orlando Magic turned in there first 50 win season of their franchise’s short exsistence.
- Allen Iverson who was from Virginia and attended nearby Georgetown University, was drafted to the Philadelphia 76′ers who had a long proud tradition of basketball, but had a string of losing seasons.
- The Houston Rockets which have one of the largest Asian populations in the nation, won the lottery in 2002 when Yao Ming, one of the better centers of this generation was available. Yao is Chinese.
- The Cleveland Cavaliers won the draft lottery in 2003 when LeBron James, an Akron, Ohio native, was the best player in the draft. LeBron was in the last draft class that allowed high school players to jump to the NBA. He was National Player of the Year twice in high school which is unheard of. He was also one of five people in NBA history to average 20 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds in their first year of NBA basketball. He won two MVP’s in Cleveland and took them to their first trip to the NBA Finals.
- Derrick Rose was the first player chosen in the 2008 draft by his hometown Chicago Bulls. He won his first NBA MVP this season and is the first Bulls player to win one since Michael Jordan.
- The Washington Wizards’ owner, Abe Pollin passed away during their season in 2009. It was a difficult season on and off the court that year. The Wizards were 26-56 that year. The widowed Mrs. Pollin attended the lottery in his stead and won the rights to John Wall, a player that was fairly compared to Derrick Rose in college.
- In 2010, Cleveland wins again after “The Decision”.
The NBA has been one of the most compelling forms of entertainment over the last two decades. David Stern brought the game out of the dark ages, when players fought violently and regularly, into a more pleasant experience for the general viewing audience. He has made the players on his teams more than just athletes. He made them stars, and he should be applauded for that. However, if we can not trust the sanctity of something that alters the sport so drastically, then how can we believe his product? The NBA draft is a joke and slowly, I am being to think the same about the National Basketball Association.