Isn't it convenient? Somebody is down on their luck, and they all of a sudden just happen to get a stroke of good fortune - or a couple of strokes.
The cries of "rigged" are inevitably shouted out from every possible angle. Because that's the only way anyone wins a lottery now, right? Nobody legitimately wins something anymore.
Immediately after the New Orleans Hornets won the NBA Draft lottery (and by extension, the Anthony Davis sweepstakes), it didn't take long for the "theorists" to crawl out of the woodwork. They put the blame on Stern, the system, and any straw they can try to grasp at. Here's a novel thought- the team that has the most ping pong balls in the lottery has only been successful in obtaining the first overall pick three times since the lottery was changed to its weighted form over 20 years ago.
Let that last line sink in again. Only three times did the team who was favored to win the lottery, actually won it! That kind of percentage makes Adam Dunn's batting average from the 2011 season seem not as abysmal.
I have a couple of questions. Was it rigged in 2008 when the Chicago Bulls had only a 1.7 percent chance of landing the top overall pick, which they used on Derrick Rose? Or how about in 1997 when the San Antonio Spurs won the lottery despite having fewer chances than two teams? They got their franchise player in Tim Duncan who has helped them to four titles and possibly a fifth this year. Was it a fix then?
It's easy to point to the fact that Stern owned the Hornets for this past season- that new owner, Tom Benson was in attendance and he may have had a hand in the process, or that the league possibly felt sorry for New Orleans' state of basketball affairs. Not only are most of those points either untrue or irrelevant, they're outright ridiculous.
Do you notice that conspiracy theorists are either two ways? They build a house of glass with their "proof" that ultimately gets shattered, or they describe occurrences through luck and circumstance. In this case, it's more the latter. So I ask, if there is a credible theory that can prove the way the ping pong balls bounced last night, then let's hear it. Wait, what's that? It doesn't exist? That's what I thought.
No matter what league commissioners tell the public about making small market teams contenders, they know the bigger markets pop more on television. The Tampa Bay Rays are great from a pure baseball perspective, and they're the most fundamentally sound team in MLB. However, their trip to the World Series in 2008 was a ratings disaster. No matter how much America collectively says they love the underdog, they'll usually watch the favorite and the bigger city more.
So what incentive is there to helping a television market that's not even in the top 50 in the United States and is the smallest in the NBA (excluding the one non-U.S. team in Toronto)? To answer that question, let's turn back to the Spurs who were considered by many to be a dynasty from 1999-2007 when they won their titles (though they never went back-to-back).
They are also one of the more lowly ranked television markets in the league, but Duncan helped turn the team into championship collectors. However, not nearly as many people watched. The numbers were mostly atrocious during their run as they helped partake in the two lowest rated Finals in history ('07 vs Cleveland and '03 vs New Jersey). Yes, even Lebron James' first appearance in the Finals couldn't help what was a match-up that featured a sweep and styles of basketball that don't appeal to the majority of fans. It's nobody's fault, and the Spurs should never have to apologize for their identity but that's just how things are.
Let's also look at the history of top overall draft picks. How can you rig something that still leaves something to chance? Do we know that Davis will translate into a perennial all-star? Even so, will the Hornets become the next Spurs? While that's not likely, we never truly know the full impact a player has on a franchise until he hits the floor. However, if you look at history of top overall draft picks there are quite a few misses interspersed with some hits. In the years that those misses did happen, there were some all stars who came off the board afterward, and still had impact on different franchises.
Joe Smith hung around the league a long time, but never really played up to the billing of being the top overall pick in 1995. Meanwhile, Jerry Stackhouse, and Kevin Garnett were selected 3rd and 5th respectively that year.
Michael Olowokandi was a huge bust in 1998. Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce were all selected 5th or later in that same draft class.
Who can forget Kwame Brown in 2001? The poster child for top overall picks gone bad was selected tops overall, while Tyson Chandler and Pau Gasol went immediately behind him that year.
For every Lebron James there is a Pervis Ellison. For every Shaquille O'Neal there is a Kent Benson, and for every Allen Iverson there is a LaRue Martin. There have been hits and misses before at the top overall spot so how can one say something is rigged when one still doesn't know the full outcome? Who knows just how good Davis will be at the next level?
The whole argument that the Hornets have unfairly won the lottery is silly. I'll continue to maintain that statement until somebody can actually provide proof otherwise. New Orleans wasn't the first to gain the top overall pick despite not having the best odds, and they won't be the last. So why is this city any different?
First Colin Cowherd, and now this? Parade season isn't for months, but it's starting to feel like the sports world is joining in on a bash parade of the Big Easy.
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