Conspiracy Theorists Are Dead Wrong About the NBA
I don't get it. I read about conspiracy theories all the time. From 9/11 was an inside job to aliens to "false flags," I try to reasonably digest the possibilites, but I just can't wrap my head around them. This isn't to say I don't think cover-ups or conspiracies don't exist. In fact, history tells us they most certainly do. But there is a line my brain draws and it won't cross it, which is exactly how I feel about the NBA.
I can accept that some fixes were in when it comes to the association. I'm still convinced that they iced the envelope so that the Knicks could get Patrick Ewing with the first pick in the draft. But even with that choice, the Knicks never won a title.
It's the complication and flaw of conspiracy theories. They entice us just enough to make us believe the fix is in, especially in today's world of technology where every play is scrutinized and every call is second-guessed. It's always been that way to a degree, but never the way it is now. That's a serious problem for the NBA because perception is reality, but it's a bigger concern for fans, because if you truly believe the NBA is no different from pro wrestling, why do you watch?
Watching the Spurs lose last night to Miami and checking up on social media, it was clear that many fans simply believed David Stern would not allow the Spurs to win. The NBA needs game seven, they argue. It wants the Heat to win, they say.
But if the NBA truly wants to stretch out the Finals as long as possible, why have there only been 12 game sevens in the last 50 years? Shouldn't all of them go the distance? In fact, wouldn't that preclude a sweep? Except that there have been eight four-game sweeps in Finals history, the most recent by the Spurs in 2007.
When former NBA ref Tim Donaghy admitted he was involved in gambling on games and indicated other referees were as well, it created more problems for the league than just the immediate fallout. For years, the game has been speeding up and officials have been struggling to keep up. The game is too fast for them and they often give deference to veterans and stars. But that has been the case for as long as the NBA has been in existence.
The bigger problem is the belief that the league is actually fixing games, important games, for the benefit of bigger ratings and more advertising revenue and for the purpose of getting its best players more time in the spotlight. This is a huge problem because it essentially puts the NBA on the same level as the WWE.
My most significant issue with those who believe this to be the case -- even more so than the facts not actually backing them up -- is that if the games are fixed, they are also meaningless. Follow that logic to its conclusion and the NBA's supposed desire to make everything go just as it plans would actually be a deterrent to the league, not a benefit.
My personal feeling is that fans of underdogs or teams from smaller markets that don't have the level of popularity they believe they should have are almost always responsible for these theories. Plenty of them came from Houston in the '90s, and to this day, people suggest the only reason the Rockets won titles was because Michael Jordan was out of the league.
It's an insult to every great player who ever played the game to suggest he needed the help of the NBA to win titles. LaBron James doesn't need help. Neither did Hakeem Olajuwon or Kobe Bryant or Jordan or Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. They were great.
And, by the way, other than Spurs fans, who didn't want to see a game seven? It's one of the great moments in sports and a rarity, particularly in the Finals. Who cares if it is also good for the league's advertising revenue. In fact, if you support basketball, you should want that, not some easy victory for the team you love.
But, for the sake of argument, let's say you do believe the association is fixing games either to increase revenue by stretching the series out or by propping up players who are good for the game. If that is the case, the NBA is no different from WWE, in which case you can either stop watching or stop complaining. If you choose to watch and complain, you are no different from the fans who were offended by Andy Kaufman when he mockingly made fun of people from Tennessee during his pro wrestling stint in the '70s. In other words, the joke's on you.
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