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1980s / 1985 NBA Draft Lottery Conspiracy
Many NBA fans steadfastly claim that the league's first draft lottery, held in 1985, was rigged. Prior to 1985, the two teams that finished in last place in the NBA's two conferences used a coin toss to determine which of the bottom-feeders would pick first overall in the collegiate draft that summer. This practice led to the accusation that some teams that had little hope of being competitive were deliberately tanking games to get in on the coin toss. To make tanking a less attractive proposition, the NBA instituted a 'draft lottery' in 1985 in which the seven teams that did not qualify for the playoffs had an equal chance of getting the first overall pick. In 1985 that selection would obviously be used to choose Patrick Ewing of Georgetown University who had led the Hoyas to three berths in the NCAA final in four years. Even before the draft was held there was scuttlebutt that the NBA would rig the draw so that the New York Knicks, the team with the biggest TV market, would get the #1 pick. The lottery was held at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. CBS televised the lottery between halves of a playoff game. As this clip shows, it was a very simplistic lottery. Seven sealed envelopes, each containing a team's logo, were put into a transparent sphere drum. The drum was spun. Commissioner David Stern selected the seven envelopes one at a time for the one to seven draft slots in that order. Almost immediately conspiracy theorists argued the draw had been rigged in favor of the Knicks. The fourth envelope tossed into the drum contained the Knicks' logo. It ended up with a bent corner because it was tossed into the drum more strongly than the other envelopes. Some cynics even claim the Knicks' envelope was frozen so Commissioner Stern would select the coldest envelope first! Others point out that the law firm responsible for overseeing the fairness of the lottery had a financial interest in the Knicks. Interestingly, the team that ended up with the seventh pick, Golden State, had the worst record in the NBA in 1984-85. In previous years they would have gotten no worse than the second pick. David Stern has always scoffed at the idea that the 1985 lottery was rigged. Watch for yourself and decide if anything was amiss.