By Zach Links
Every May we huddle around our television sets to watch the best in the NBA clash for a shot at the ultimate prize. Then at halftime we watch the worst in the league compete for their ultimate prize. One has Shaq banging bodies with Tim Duncan, the other has ping-pong balls banging into each other to see which franchise gets a chance at mediocrity in 3 years. Combining the excitement of the state lottery with the glamour of the Clippers, the NBA lottery manages to capture our hearts and eventually, our colons.
In any professional sport, the idea of the draft is to give the worst teams high picks and the good teams low ones. The three other major sports basically make their draft order with that concept in mind, but the NBA lottery allows a near-playoff team a chance to get the first pick while the absolute worst team in the league can slip well below the #1 selection they should have. In 2003, the Cavs were the worst team in the league and received the first overall pick snapping a 13 year streak of the league's worst team not getting the top pick. In 1990 the Nets had the worst record and won the first ever NBA lottery involving ping-pong balls. They in turn drafted Derrick Coleman, who then became the worst bust out of Syracuse since the Nets drafted Dwayne Pearl Washington in 1986. So this means that from 1991-2002 the team who truly needed that #1 selection was gypped out of it by flying ping-pong balls. And before that teams were screwed out of picks by envelopes (Why didn't Staples sponsor that?). And in the days of Dr. James Naismith they used to carve the teams logos into peaches and put them in a peach basket. Naismith would put on a blindfold and be spun around 20 times by President Benjamin Harrison and then he would pick a peach out of the basket. Legend has it that if Naismith saw the shadow of a peach, then we were doomed to see the Clippers in the lottery for the next 1,000 years.
When something as bizarre as the NBA Lottery is implemented, equally bizarre conspiracy theories are bound to arise. In the 84-85 season the Knicks finished with a 24-58 record, the third worst record in the NBA. The Knicks' envelope was pulled out and voila, they get the number one pick. The Knicks would select Patrick Ewing while the Pacers (#2 pick) and Clippers (#3 pick) picked future stars Wayman Tisdale and Benoit Benjamin, respectively. Immediately people were suspicious of the fact that the big market team was able to land the number one selection while the less glamorous Pacers and Warriors were left with lower picks despite the fact that their records were the worst in the league. In all likelihood the lottery was not fixed but there would not have been any controversy had the teams been given the top picks in order of worst record.
When fans call into their local sports talk stations over the summer, they discuss what free agents their team can pick up or what players are out there on the trading block. Not once have I heard a caller mention the importance of a ping-pong ball to their franchise. The NBA Lottery is absolutely terrible and until they find something they perceive to be exciting enough to replace it, it will always be a part of a halftime in May. The fans of the NBA deserve better than to see a ping-pong ball wreck their future. The highest draft picks must go to those in need, not the teams who are playoff bound prior to the draft. Until the NBA decides to give the worst teams the highest picks, I have devised a few other alternatives to the lottery:
1. Have the owners fight each other inside a WWE style cage in Secaucus, New Jersey for the rights to the number one pick. This can make the NBA as appealing to gamblers as the NFL, seeing as how big fat guys on a field aren't nearly as exciting as Gordon Gund smashing in Mark Cuban's head. What's that? Mark Cuban's team wouldn't make the lottery? Well we'll let him fight for the pick anywayas long as he is bound and gagged while in the ring.
2. Have all the owners locked in a room and turn on Michael McDonald's performance at halftime of the all-star game. Whoever is the last owner not to try to puncture his ear drum by cramming a ping-pong ball into their head wins.
3. Let the owners drive from Secaucus, NJ to Hunterdon County, NJ where they can go to Jayson Williams' mansion and play limo driver. Last one standing wins.
I have to admit that was a bit cruel. No one should be forced to listen to Michael McDonald.
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Call me old-fashioned or lame, but I dont feel the need to update people on whether my Browns were successful in that mornings Super Bowl. That is why I dont Tweet or use Facebook. My cell phone is so old it doesnt even have Internet. I am obviously out of touch with all the new waves of communication, since I only blog.