ByJonathan Sim, writer at
I'm a writer/film theorist. Check out my articles on Pixar, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, Die Hard, politics, and more!
Jonathan Sim

OK, so I know this isn't my normal Pixar/Harry Potter/Back to the Future stuff, but I do write about other stuff once in a while. Today, I'm going to be talking about basketball.

If this was a YouTube video, the intro would be about now.

So, this hasn't been really established, but I am a huge basketball fan, specifically, the NBA, specifically the New York Knicks. And yeah, I know we had a bad record this season.


And one of the most famous NBA players to ever play for the Knicks was Patrick Ewing.

How does he sweat that much.
How does he sweat that much.

He was drafted by the New York Knicks in 1985 out of Georgetown University. But what if this wasn't where he was supposed to go? What if the draft was fixed so that he could play for the Knicks?

Alright. I don't know where the intro would be anymore.

OK, so in case you don't know yet, look up how an NBA draft works, because I was halfway through writing how it worked when I realized I didn't have a complete understanding of it myself.

Until 1985, this is how the draft would work. The two teams with the worst records of each conference in the previous season would get the first and second draft pick. To decide which team would get which pick, they flipped a coin. But as far as I know, they stopped doing this because a team could try to lose as many games as possible so that they could get a first draft pick next season. So, starting in 1985, the seven teams that didn't make the playoffs had their logo put into an envelope. The envelopes were then placed into a transparent sphere and mixed around. David Stern, former commissioner of the NBA would then pick a random envelope and they would get the #1 pick. Each one Stern picked after that would be second, third, etc.

The Knicks received the first draft pick.
The Knicks received the first draft pick.

OK, so I have a clip of the 1985 NBA draft below, and what I want you to do is start to watch it. Watch how the person dropping the envelopes into the sphere drops them. It's at the beginning.

OK, so watch how he drops the envelopes. You'll see that he drops the first one, second one, third one, and watch the fourth one. He hits the fourth one against the metal pipe. None of the other envelopes he dropped came close to touching the pipe. Only the fourth one did and that gave the corner of the envelope a slight crease.

Now, keep in mind: the person dropping the envelopes is Jack Wagner, a partner of Ernst & Witney. Ernst & Witney was the auditing firm for Gulf + Western Inc., who owned the New York Knicks. So you may be able to see why Wagner would set up a scheme with Stern to rig the draft, because he has a direct connection to the Knicks.

And also, why would he drop the envelopes in one by one? He could have easily just dropped all the envelopes into the sphere together. It's because he knew that envelope was the one with the Knicks in it.

Unpause the video and watch as the sphere is being rotated. You can see David Stern intently watching the bowl, maybe because he's keeping an eye on the envelope. Then, at about 0:41, you'll notice David Stern take a deep breath, as if he's nervous. Do you think he's nervous about standing in front of an audience, something he frequently does, or do you think he's nervous about choosing the wrong envelope?

Keep watching the video. Now, pause right before David picks an envelope. Here's an image of the freeze frame.

Above, you see two envelopes and running across the side of the bowl, you see the sides (edges) of two envelopes. One is closer to the top and one is closer to the bottom. Pay attention to the one on the bottom. Look at the width. You'll see that it's straight, straight, and then you see an arch showing that it has been creased.

Then, you'll see that David Stern takes the stack of envelopes with the Knicks envelope at the bottom and he turns the entire stack over and takes the one with the creased edge. Sure enough, that one has the Knicks logo in it.

Therefore, the Knicks got the first draft pick, Patrick Ewing. It didn't matter anyway. We didn't win jack with Ewing.

Why was it rigged?

Well, I presume that David Stern was a fan of the New York Knicks, as he was born in New York. I was born in New York, and I'm a fan of the Knicks. And there was the point I mentioned earlier about Jack Wagner having a connection with the Knicks. But why did they go through all the trouble of rigging a draft?

Here's why: Ewing was an INCREDIBLY skilled basketball player in Georgetown, winning them an NCAA championship and he won Player of the Year in 1985. So, all this would make the NBA BIG figures if he was drafted and they would get a lot of media attention, plus a TV deal with CBS. Ewing was the first draft pick, and you're wondering why it mattered what team he was on. Well, the Knicks' home court is Madison Square Garden, undoubtedly one of the most famous arenas in the U.S.

So, if they had one of the best players of the league playing in one of the most famous arenas in the NBA, it'd be pretty easy to see why they would want him on the Knicks instead of the Detroit Pistons or something like that (no offense, but The Palace is not that famous).

And that's the theory!

So here's my question for you:


Do you think the draft was rigged?


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