If you enjoyed the movie JFK, you’re probably a fan of conspiracy theories.
Oliver Stone’s perfectly painted picture almost certainly proves that Lee Harvey Oswald was not a lone gunman in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Sports fans can be as much in the lunatic fringe as conspiracy theorists. And those who find themselves on the wrong side of a questionable outcome are quick to conjure a premeditated scheme.
Below is our list of the five greatest sports conspiracies.
Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston II
The rematch of the Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston world heavyweight championship was highly anticipated after the first fight ended abruptly when Liston tapped out because of a shoulder injury.
But the viewing audience barely got a chance to settle into their seats for Ali-Liston II that May evening of 1965. Midway through the first round, Ali threw a jab and Liston dropped to the floor.
That glancing blow has become known as the “phantom punch” because Liston went down nearly unscathed. Conspiracy theorists contend Liston was on the take, like so many boxers have been accused of in the ring.
Some say Liston took a dive because he owed the Mafia money so he bet against himself while others believe he was being threatened by Nation of Islam extremists who had recently converted Cassius Clay.
And much like the Zapruder film (back and to the left), video evidence of this conspiracy nearly proves it to be true.
Even Ali himself was skeptical about the effortless knockdown. While towering over Liston in one of sports’ most recognized moments, The Louisville Lip was apparently screaming at his opponent, “Get up and fight, sucker!” And a more detailed footage of the fight shows Ali asking his corner, “Did I hit him?”.
1985 NBA Draft Lottery
David Stern is the longest tenured commissioner in professional sports. Twenty-six years is plenty of time to transform and tailor a league exactly to your liking. Stern has schemed and swindled his way into making the NBA one of the most profitable businesses in the world.
Conspiracy theorists claim one of Stern’s earliest magic tricks came during the 1985 NBA Draft. The Knicks had been a mediocre team for years in the Eastern Conference so Stern and his goons devised a plan to rig the lottery so that New York would receive the No. 1 overall pick and select the best player in the country – Patrick Ewing.
The theory goes that the envelope containing the Knicks logo was either creased or chilled so that Stern could easily identify it as he reached into the hopper. Go to about the 5:00 mark of this clip and see for yourselves.
When examining the video, Stern even looks nervous as he takes a deep sigh before dipping into the lottery bin. Then, when he grabs a stack of envelopes why does he turn it over and take the one off the bottom? And it’s clear as day the envelope Stern picks has a bent corner.
Between this and the allegations of former referee Tim Donaghy, the NBA is a hot bed for conspiracy theories.
Just as Richard Nixon found himself on the wrong side of the Watergate scandal, Bill Belichick and the Patriots got caught with their pants down in 2007.