By Steve Czaban Special to Published May 21, 2008 at 5:29 AM

Some people have called me a "conspiracy theorist" at heart. They say I have yet to meet a sports "conspiracy" that I wasn't quick to believe.

OK. Guilty as charged.

But a funny thing is happening these days. More and more actual conspiracies are coming to light and being proven with the weight of courtroom trials and convictions.

So I ask: who is crazy now?

If I had said to you last spring that an NBA referee was conspiring to fix games -- FIX them, not just bet on games he was not involved in, you would have called me a plain fool.

And yet, Tim Donaghy is right now fighting to stay out of prison for 33 years. If you believe him, there were others involved. The NBA is fighting back hard to say he's a lone wolf, and not a very credible one.

Well, of course the league is saying that. Wouldn't you?

The mother of all conspiracies celebrates its 23rd anniversary this week, as the NBA conducts its annual draft lottery. In 1985, a certain Hall of Fame center was up for grabs, and a certain struggling big market team could have really used his services.

Amazing then, no?  The New York Knickerbockers got lucky, right?


I urge everybody to revisit that fateful night when a much younger, less gray and skinnier David Stern sold his league's soul down the river to deliver a single player to a high profile team.

Please note how Jack Wagner, the supposed Ernst and Whitney "partner" who never appeared on any company roster, drops every envelope but one into the drum around the 4:50 mark. Note that one non-drop envelope was banged clumsily and conspicuously against the drum in order to "dog ear" the Knicks' entry.

Please note Stern's dramatic sigh as he prepares to commit this underhanded act. Please note the clear drum that allows full sight into the batch of envelopes to pick out the dog-eared one.

Please note Stern's curious decision to fold over several envelopes on top, to get to the one with the dog ear corner.

In addition, please note that a more tamper-proof method of picking envelopes for draft order would be to pick the seventh team first and work down to the final one. It's much harder to NOT pick the envelope you have rigged, six straight times without looking foolish.

People ask me all the time: do you REALLY believe this?

Yes. I certainly do.

And why shouldn't I believe it? The visual evidence is there. There are too many odd coincidences that all fall into line to allow the deception. And recent history in sports has told us to be suspicious of everything.

Would anybody have believed that a rival figure skater would hire her boyfriend's goons to attack her opponent outside the rink with a club to the knee?

Outrageous, but true.

Would anybody have believed the scope of steroid use in MLB over the last 10 years, and the Hall of Fame roster of names that dabbled in it?

We're only starting to know the real story.

Would anybody have thought that the Russian mafia was influencing tennis matches by having certain players drop out of matches they were leading, only after a million-dollar wager came in on his opponent via the Internet?

Tennis is just now trying to sort out how many rotten apples are in their ranks.

How does London beat out heavily favored Paris to host the 2012 Olympics? Do figure skating judges really cheat by using a foot-tap system under the table? Bill Belichick's signal taping scandal, Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo with their under-the-table payments...

Remember the kids who claimed to have hit horse racing's biggest jackpot a few years back. Um, turns out they just hacked into the computers.

It goes on, and on and on....

Please, folks. I live in the real world. Corruption, cheating and conspiracies happen every day. It is almost quaint to think that sports fans so want to believe the fairytale nature of our games, that we are so anti-inclined to accept that a conspiracy might have happened right under our noses.

This week, the NBA conducted the modern draft lottery. More teams, no envelopes or plastic drum, and a weighted statistical chance of getting the No. 1 pick. It is no more a true "lottery" than a guy banging on a bucket on a street corner is a "musician."

Problem is, "The NBA Weighted Statistical Drawing" doesn't have the marketing ring to it like "Lottery."

They say that a conspiracy as grand as Stern rigging the 1985 Lottery would have required many people, and that somebody would have talked by now.

No. Not at all. It was probably nothing more than a two-person job. Stern and the mythical Jack Wagner. Hell, even Horace Balmer might have thought it was on the up and up.

Ewing is long retired. Wagner can't be located. And Stern remains.

Happy Anniversary, NBA fans!

Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.