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Was the 1985 Draft Lottery really fixed?

Bill Simmons is all riled up over some video of the 1985 Draft Lottery that supposedly proves that it was indeed fixed. If you remember, the Knicks won the lottery (and the right to draft Patrick Ewing) in a time when the league’s marquee franchise was in dire trouble. I’ll let Simmons set it up:

Just in case they pull down the clip between the time we post this blog and the time you read this, here’s what happens: when an accountant from Ernst & Whinney throws the seven envelopes into the glass drum, he bangs the fourth one against the side of the drum to create a creased corner (we’ll explain why this is relevant in a second). Then he pulls a handle and turns the drum around a couple of times to “mix” the envelopes up. At the 5:23 mark of the clip, Stern heads over to the drum, unlocks it and awkwardly reaches inside for the first envelope (the No. 1 pick). He grabs three envelopes that are bunched together, pretends not to look (although he does) and flips the three envelopes so the one on the bottom ends up in his hand. Then he pulls that envelope out at the 5:32 mark … and, of course, it’s the Knicks envelope.

Now …

A reader named Greg K. from Fair Lawn, N.J. (I’d give you his whole name, but I don’t want him to be randomly found dead in his bathtub tonight), pointed this out to me: If you look closely right at the 5:31 mark, right as the commish yanks that Knicks envelope out, there’s a noticeable crease in the corner of the envelope. You can see it for a split-second — as he pulls the envelope up, it’s on the corner that’s pointing toward the bottom of the jar.

There’s a giant crease! It’s right there! The same one the accountant created as he was throwing the envelopes into the drum!

So you’re telling me that, out of the seven envelopes in that glass drum, during a lottery when the NBA desperately needed the most ballyhooed college center in 15 years to save the league’s marquee franchise, the commissioner coincidentally pulled out the envelope with a giant crease in the corner that happened to have the Knicks logo in it? This is the Zapruder film of sports tapes, isn’t it? Where’s Oliver Stone? Can we pull him out of the editing room for the “Alexander: The Really, REALLY Long Director’s Cut” DVD?

Here’s the video – watch it for yourself. You can skip ahead to the part when the accountant puts the envelopes in the hopper and see if he intentionally banged the envelope.

My dad always claimed that this lottery was fixed, and I never was sure if I believed him. After watching the video, I’m still not sure. As always, I do have a few comments:

(1) It’s weird to see Pat O’Brien reporting on something meaningful.

(2) If the Knicks’ envelope was really one the accountant (intentionally) banged, I have a theory why it was the fourth. If he knew the Knicks were in the fourth spot in his stack and there were seven envelopes in total, he could comfortably turn the stack over and the Knicks’ envelope would still be in the middle. There would be no chance of a mixup on the way to the stage.

(3) The Knicks’ envelope could have been creased as the envelopes jumped around in the hopper. The force of the fall is just as strong as (if not stronger than) the accountant’s bang. Just watch the envelopes as they get mixed. If they wanted to fix the lottery, they’d be better off pre-creasing the envelope or freezing it, like other conspiracy theorists have suggested.

What do you think?

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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