Turn On The Knicks Throwback Thursday – The Frozen Envelope


he 1970’s were glorious years for the Knicks, but by the time the 80’s rolled around, the franchise was stuck in the mud. A transition period led by Earl Monroe and a few seasons led by Bernard King  made the team bearable to watch, but by 1984-95 season, the Knicks bottomed out, finishing with the third-worst record in the league. The only man who could help turn the franchise around was playing college ball at Georgetown, and he was sure to go number one, but without owning the NBA’s worst record, it was impossible for New York to get their hands on him. Or was it?

Ewing was so coveted by general managers that the NBA invented the draft lottery in order to prevent teams from tanking their way to the first overall pick. If only they knew how much tanking went on this season! The system worked like this:

All seven (yes, seven) lottery teams were eligible to receive the first pick. An envelope with the logo from each of the non-playoff teams was thrown into a hopper. The franchise whose envelope was drawn first would get the first pick, and afterward, the process was repeated, starting with the seventh pick, until all of the spots were determined. The rest of the first-round picks were determined in reverse order of the win-loss record.

On May 12, 1985, the NBA executed the first-ever draft lottery. Director of basketball operations, Dave DeBusschere, attended as New York’s representative, and the night went like this:

Ever since then, people have been questioning the NBA’s motives, swearing that the Knicks’ envelope was frozen, or had a bent corner.  At the time, the Celtics and Lakers were dominating the basketball landscape and the league could have benefitted from another large market entering the scene, but David Stern clearly looked away while reaching into the hopper, and with so many people watching, rigging the system would have been an unbelievable stunt. To this day, Stern swears on his innocence, but would it really be surprising to find out that Ewing was handed to the Knicks on a silver platter? Maybe one day we’ll find out.


What do you think? Was the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery rigged? Let us know in the comments section below! 

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