The Greatest Conspiracy Theories In Sports

The Lions-Cowboys game last night will forever be defined by the now-infamous flag pickup on the fourth-quarter pass interference call, denying Detroit the chance to put a nail in the coffin of the game and send themselves to get rocked by the Packers in Lambeau again. Given the ties between Dallas owner Jerry Jones and NFL Head of Officiating Dean Blandino, conspiracy theories and calls of the game being fixed erupted throughout the Internet. In honor of what would be Roger Goodell’s 18th scummiest move of the past few months, here’s a list of the greatest conspiracy theories in sports.


The Oilers Were Forced To Trade Gretzky To The Kings To Popularize Hockey On The West Coast


The Theory: Gary Bettman, in a stunning act of competence from the most derided commissioner in sports history, forced the Oilers to trade the most famous hockey player of all-time to Los Angeles, in order to spread hockey to the west coast and help the long-term growth of the NHL.

Likelihood: I’m not sold on this one. Watching the 30 for 30 “King’s Ransom”, there seemed to be legitimate reasons why the Oilers ownership would want to trade the Great One. Besides, when you’re literally being burned in effigy for trading someone, like Oilers owner Peter Pocklington was, and it wasn’t your fault, I feel like you’d leak something about it to sympathetic media members right away, right?

Michael Jordan Flu Game Conspiracies


The Theory: There are a lot of conspiracies around this one. One, as hinted several times by Jalen Rose and other NBA insiders, is that the “flu game” was really more like the “hangover game”. Another, from his former trainer, is that the bellhop at the hotel poisoned Jordan’s room service. A third is that Jordan was actually perfectly fine the whole time and completely gaming the Jazz.

Likelihood: Don’t think it was a hangover game. Jordan was a legendary partier, so even if he was out the night before, I doubt he’d be that destroyed by the sweats. The other two seem like stretches as well. I really hope the one about him being totally healthy and just messing with the Jazz player’s heads is true though. Because that would be awesome.


The 2002 Lakers-Kings Western Conference Finals Was Rigged


The Theory: The NBA ordered Game 6 of the WCF to go to the Lakers, forcing a Game 7 and allowing the NBA’s signature franchise the chance to boost TV ratings for the Finals. There are a million Youtube documentaries on this, and it’s worth a search if you’re bored. On a related note, I am told that a lot of people think the Sixers-Bucks playoff series was fixed in 2001. But I don’t think even Bucks fans really care about the Bucks, so let’s just move on.

Likelihood: David Stern once said his dream Finals was “The Lakers versus the Lakers…I have a special fascination with the Lakers.” Tim Donaghy specifically pointed out Game 6 as fixed when being questioned by the FBI about fixing games. The Lakers shot 18 more free throws than the Kings in the 4th quarter of that game. Many present said it was the most lopsided-ly called game they’ve ever seen. If it walks, tastes, and acts like a duck, it probably is one. I’m not buying a formal fix, but a “wink-wink” agreement for officials to act in the NBA’s best interest and force a Game 7? I believe it.

The NBA Draft Is Rigged

Ewing Draft Lottery

The Theory: A lot of different instances where people have accused the NBA of fixing drafts. The infamous “frozen envelope” sending Patrick Ewing to New York. Chicago landing local hero Derrick Rose when only having a 2% chance of doing so. Cavs getting a slew of first overall picks after The Decision, setting them up for Lebron’s return. New Orleans being given Anthony Davis to make them more attractive for sale to a new ownership group.

Likelihood: Buying. Absolutely buying. #Stern


Camden Yards Shut Off The Electricity To Preserve Cal Ripken’s Consecutive Games Streak


The Theory: Cal Ripken walks in on actor Kevin Costner banging his wife, and retaliates by beating the ever-loving shit out of him. In anger, he calls the Orioles and tells them that he will be unable to play in that night’s game, ending the Streak and therefore a huge cash cow for the O’s. That night, the lights go out in Camden Yards due to “technical failure” despite no other buildings in the power grid having any problems. Orioles play the next day with no problems with lighting, and The Streak lives on.

Likelihood: Makes sense in a lot of contexts. Orioles have an interest in Cal Ripken continuing to chase the record. Kevin Costner shooting a movie in Baltimore at the time and reportedly staying in Cal’s house. The alleged constant marital strife within the Ripken family. Famous people have sex with each other and their spouses constantly (I assume anyway). Still, seems a little fantastical, but I choose to believe it because I hate the Orioles.

Gregg Popovich Shut Off The Air Conditioning During The Lebron James “Cramp Game”


The Theory: Gregg Popovich, with his team of well-conditioned, mostly European (who mostly grew up playing in gyms with no AC) players, shuts down the air conditioning in Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals in order to give his team a competitive advantage. Lebron James cramps and leaves the game, sealing the victory and an early series lead for the Spurs.

Likelihood: Don’t buy it, although it would be awesome because it’d prove how little Pop thought of the Heatles and make him the greatest evil genius in sports this side of Bill Belicheck.


Wisconsin Threw The 2014 Big 10 Championship Game, Paving Ohio State’s Road To The Playoff



The Theory: Barry Alvarez colluded with Big 10 Commisioner James Delany to order Gary Andersen to let Ohio State to win the Big 10 Championship in dominating fashion, allowing them to leapfrog Baylor and TCU for the final spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Likelihood: I believe it, only because a guy named Dan from Chicago with a sweet mustache told me it was true, and he seemed like a real straight shooter.

Bobby Riggs Threw The Battle Of The Sexes


The Theory: The famous “Battle Of The Sexes” match where Bobby Riggs lost to Billie Jean King in a man v. woman tennis match, was fixed. Riggs was in gambling debt and bet big against himself in the game, then threw it. Riggs collects his money, King becomes a national hero and icon for woman’s sports, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Likelihood: Outside The Lines did a piece on this match a while back with pretty convincing evidence the match was thrown, and the tape certainly supports the claim. How do I write “man throws game to lose to woman is way more convincing than woman beats man” without sounding like a sexist?


Michael Jordan’s Baseball Sabbatical Was A Gambling Suspension


The Theory: Michael Jordan’s leaving the NBA to play baseball for the Chicago White Sox farm system was really a secret suspension by David Stern for MJ’s gambling.

Likelihood: Makes a lot of sense, but by all accounts Jordan’s gambling habits weren’t really a secret around the NBA prior to him leaving. Also, if Stern was going to sweep everything under the rug, why would he did it in a way that forced the league’s single most valuable asset to leave the league? Gotta be a better explanation.



Did I miss any? Tweet at me @CharlieWisco with your best conspiracy theories, and I’ll update the blog to include them.


Here are the conspiracy theories you have all tweeted at me. They’re gold. Keep them coming and I’ll keep updating the blog. The handle is @CharlieWisco

@TheBallIsOrange : Delonte West/Gloria James

If it is true, that the real reason Lebron left Cleveland is because his Mom was being banged by Delonte West, than that is the greatest and funniest conspiracy theory not only in sports, but in human history.

@Kcos194 : take it old school…72 Olympics. Russia-USA Men’s basketball gold medal game

Don’t know anything about this other than the USA got screwed. But I wouldn’t put anything past Russians, so I’m totally in on this one.

@uklefty22: The Ali-Liston thrown match conspiracy is a good one

Completely spaced on this one, that Sonny Liston threw the title bout for Muhammed Ali in 1964. I’ve read there was actually a secret FBI investigation into this one. This would be the most devastating of any conspiracy theories, given what a large place Ali has in American sports mythology? If his title was tainted, I feel like that’d be pretty deflating.

@dunhammt: old dudes at the gym swear the Jordan Sr car jacking was a hit for MJ’s gambling debts

Makes sense, I’ve heard this as well. Fucking Jordan. You know you’re the greatest when him alone is like 30% of a Greatest Conspiracies list. What a badass.

@Pat_AllDay: Roger Clemens first “retirement” from baseball was actually a steroid suspension

Given what scumbags the MLB were about sweeping the steroid thing under the rug, I can 100% believe this. Especially everything suggesting they knew ARod was using for years and let it go until recently. Which is fucking bullshit. But that’s a blog for another day.

@TomRyan16: paperboy sells his soul in exchange for a meteoric rise of his smut blog and a decade of championships #stern

I noticed KFC accused Pres of this on the Rundown the other day and he didn’t really deny it, so I’m not filing this under “conspiracy” as much as “cold hard fact”

@SaintBrendan: I figured you would have brought up Crosby-Pens rumors so the franchise didn’t move. Could have been a Ranger.

Never bought this, because wouldn’t the league rather send a sure-thing superstar to New York than Pittsburgh if they were going to fix a draft?

@Jackfrantz33 : Lights going out in the Ravens-Niners Super Bowl

I’ll chalk that up to New Orleans being New Orleans.

@_BrianElliot: Lindros fucking Brind’amour’s wife and Brind’amour giving him a concussion for it then getting traded

Anyone else noticed that 80% of conspiracy theories center around David Stern or someone banging athletes wives?

@drewhamm5: The fact @CharlieWisco didn’t include the Montreal Screw Job despite it being tweeted at him proves he is in on it.

I don’t want wrestling and never have, but apparently this is a thing.

Keep sending your conspiracy theories to @CharlieWisco and I’ll keep including them