The Frozen Envelope: Do you think when Stern came up with the idea for a draft lottery he would have to hear and deal with so many conspiracy theories? I'm thinking he didn't. But credit to him for sticking it out and making the draft lottery a part of our lives every year.
So back to the frozen envelope, you know the conspiracy by now. Patrick Ewing is coming out of Georgetown, so of course New York's got to have him because he's the best player in college basketball. Back then the lottery worked with Stern basically pulling names out of hat, but the names were in envelopes. Now the theory goes the New York envelope was put in a freezer before the lottery, so when Stern reached down to feel the envelopes he would feel the frozen envelope and pick it last. And that's how the Knicks won the 85 lottery.
The Rest of the Lottery Conspiracy Theories: In no particular order.
(1 The Multiple Cavs Lottery Wins): The Cavs have won the lottery so many times it's hard not to see a conspiracy there. Whether it's Cleveland winning the lottery for Lebron or winning the lottery twice since he left.
(2 Washington Winning the Lottery after Abe Pollin's Death): I can still see his widow standing there with Ted Leonsis when Washington was announced as the draft lottery winner.
(3 New Orleans Wins the Lottery While the League Owns the Team): This one might be even more controversial than the frozen envelope. The league at the time owned the New Orleans Hornets and were looking to offload them. What would be more appealing to a buyer than the first pick in the draft with Anthony Davis sitting there? Stern got hammered for New Orleans winning the lottery that year and it still looks very suspicious a couple of years later. Out of all the conspiracy theories surrounding Stern's tenure, this one wouldn't surprise me if it was actually true.
Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals: Sorry but this one is still too tough to talk about.
Crooked Refs: Look I can't imagine how tough it is to officiate a basketball game. It looks tough to call a high school basketball game let alone an NBA game. And because of this we've seen a lot of controversy and conspiracy theories around the NBA refs over the years. The controversies didn't start during Stern's years, but they have gotten worse. And the Tim Donaghy scandal didn't quell these theories at all.
It's going to be interesting to see how Adam Silver deals with these controversies during his term because they're not going to go away. Will he fine a player/coach/GM/owner if they cry wolf like Stern would do? Or will he get rid of the refs like Bavetta and Bennett Salvadore who are always shrodded in controversy?
Stern Sabotages the NHL by Recommending Gary Bettman: This is my favorite conspiracy theory and this is how it goes.
The NHL was looking was looking for a commissioner for it's league. They turned to Stern who recommended Gary Bettman who was third in charge and the NBA's legal counsel*. Now why would Stern recommend Bettman over Russ Granik? Granik was the deputy commissioner and at the time a clear successor to Stern and by all accounts his friend. So why not recommend Granik to the NHL? Because Stern knew Bettman was incompetent and he wanted to sabotage the NHL.
*Bettman was the one who is most responsible for a cap in the NBA.
You have to remember the NHL was red hot at the time. Mario Lemieux and the Penguins had just won back-to-back championships. Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings were the hottest thing in the NHL at the time especially since Magic Johnson retired and the Lakers hadn't acquired Kobe or Shaq yet. The Rangers were about to win the Stanley Cup the next year and the NHL's most dominant team the Montreal Canadiens were about to win another Cup. The Toronto Maple Leafs were also really good during this period. So how could the NBA respond to the NHL's gaining popularity? By sabotaging the NHL by recommending the incompetent Bettman to be their first commissioner.
This of course is all anecdotal. Stern probably most likely wanted to do a favor for Bettman. The salary cap after all had been one of the saving graces of the NBA. And maybe Stern did recommend Granik and he just wanted to stay in the NBA figuring Stern would have to retire someday and he'd get his chance to run the league. Still though this is my favorite Stern conspiracy theory of his era.