LeBron James did not play college basketball, and clearly he did not need to. He was an impact player in the NBA straight out of high school. The No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, LeBron went on to win the 2004 Rookie of the Year award.
LeBron was one of the lucky top prospects who was able to declare for the NBA Draft straight from high school. Since 2006, draftees have been required to be at least 19 years of age and be one year removed from high school in order to be declared eligible.
As long as top prospects are forced to play college ball, shady practices will be associated with the recruiting process. A number of programs, including Louisville and Arizona, have recently come under fire for going to crazy and illegal lengths to lure top recruits. In light of those stories, the broken NCAA system is a talking point around the hoops world.
Tuesday, LeBron expressed his point of view—that the NCAA, which capitalizes off the players, is corrupt.
During NBA All-Star Weekend, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver mentioned that the league is considering potentially altering its playoff system. Instead of having the teams divided by conference—with seeds 1 through 8 in the East and seeds 1 through 8 in the West—the change would mean all 16 teams would compete in the same bracket, with East teams competing with West teams. In theory, seed 1 would play seed 16, much like the NCAA Tournament system.
On the surface, this is a reasonable change that could make the NBA Playoffs more interesting. As it stands now, the first round of the playoffs is pretty…lacking. This would shake things up.
But some people have already asked: Could this possibly all be a ploy to benefit LeBron James? That's the perspective Out Of Bounds host Gilbert Arenas espoused on Tuesday's episode of the show. Check out No Chill Gil's take in the video above. You can also catch the full episode below.
“Why would you want to change it now? Huh, if Adam Silver knows LeBron James is coming to the West Coast,” Gil said. “If LeBron James comes to the West Coast, this actually makes sense now.”
Indeed, where the King will play next season is a topic of much debate among NBA fans. People have said for over a year that they think he's headed to the Lakers, while others have linked him to the Rockets—both Western Conference teams. Either way, Gil's theory suggests the NBA is trying to set the playoff seedings up so that LeBron would still have a relatively easy path to the NBA Finals, even while playing in the West.
Gil's conspiracy theory is far from the only conspiracy theory that has been attached to LeBron's name throughout his illustrious 15-year career. Conspiracy theories following someone nicknamed “LBJ”? You don't say. (Word to Lyndon Baines Johnson, whom conspiracy theorists blame for the Kennedy assassination.)
Below are some of the wildest LeBron James conspiracy theories we've ever seen.
1. LeBron is headed to the Lakers because of…Space Jam 2?!
It feels like Space Jam 2 is never going to happen at this point, right? However, some believe signing with L.A. would give LeBron the buzz needed to raise the budget for the film. Director Justin Lin has confirmed the sequel is happening. We just don't know when.
2. The Spurs air conditioning conspiracy
The Spurs jumped to a 1-0 lead in the 2014 NBA Finals, and LeBron had to leave Game 1 in a pivotal moment because he cramped up in the fourth quarter. People accused San Antonio of intentionally messing with the A.C. to force the best player alive to check out of the game. That would be downright Belichickian.
4. Did a young LeBron intentionally blow a playoff game against Boston?
The Cavs played the Celtics in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, and some accused him of intentionally blowing Game 6. The theory is that LeBron wanted out of Cleveland and he used that series to show the NBA he simply had to leave because he was working with so little talent.
5. Were he and Kyrie in it together?
All the drama that followed LeBron and former teammate Kyrie Irving this summer was so perfect and theatrical that it seemed staged. Was it possible they worked together to orchestrate a move that was ideal for both of their careers? Some think so.
6. Did he play a role in Eric Bledsoe's trade demand?
Eric Bledsoe demanded to be traded and eventually was—from the Phoenix Suns to the Milwaukee Bucks this past fall. Rich Paul, LeBron's agent and close friend, represents Bledsoe. Some believe LeBron was pulling the strings because he wanted Bledsoe to get out of Phoenix.
7. Really, anything could be turned into a LeBron conspiracy—even wine
Even an innocuous team trip to Napa Valley for a nice wine tasting has proven it could lead to conspiracies. People blamed the Cavs' 2017-18 struggles (which are maybe, possibly, probably over) on their love for the vino.
The Eastern Conference looks up for grabs right now. The Cavs are surging, but the Raptors and Celtics have been good all year. Regardless of how the playoffs shake out, you can bet more LBJ conspiracy theories will hit the internet in May and June—especially after he announces his free-agency decision. Get ready to add to this list.
Here’s some free advice for all of the guys who are hoping to get selected in the NBA Draft next year: start going through your various social media accounts now and deleting anything that could potentially come back to bite you once you walk across the stage and shake hands with Adam Silver. Trust us, it'll be well worth your time.
It should be a pretty simple concept, and NBA prospects pay agents, publicists, and other handlers quite a bit of money to make them look good in the public eye. We would guess that a big part of that is scrubbing anything that could be perceived as even slightly controversial off social media in the months, weeks, and even days leading up to a big event like the NBA Draft.
But on Thursday night, 60 players were selected during the NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and after they were drafted, Twitter went into overdrive and started looking through their old tweets to try and dig up any dirt that they may have posted in the past. And somewhat amazingly—in a “How the hell is this still happening?” kind of way—there were quite a few players who had incriminating stuff located deep in their Twitter timelines.
Some of the stuff was relatively harmless but still raised eyebrows among NBA fan bases. For example, Jayson Tatum—who was selected No. 3 overall by the Celtics—once sent out this tweet in the middle of a Boston game in 2012:
Likewise, Lonzo Ball, the Lakers’ pick at No. 2 overall, sent out this tweet back in 2013 that seemed to predict Kobe Bryant & Co. wouldn’t make the playoffs before the 2013-14 season even started:
Jordan Bell, who was drafted by the Bulls at No. 38 before being traded to the Warriors, said this about Golden State in 2016:
When warriors come back down 3-1 they're a great team when Cavs do it the NBA is rigged
And Terrance Ferguson, selected with the No. 21 pick by the Thunder, had this to say about Oklahoma City when the Warriors were on the verge of coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 Western Conference Finals:
We’re sure OKC fans loved being reminded of that, especially since the loss to the Warriors ended up costing them Kevin Durant. We’re also sure they now appreciate the fact that Ferguson is actually from Oklahoma but was actively rooting against the Thunder as recently as just last year.
But those tweets were just the beginning. Elsewhere, Twitter dug up this old 2012 tweet from Edmond Sumner, the Pacers’ pick at No. 52, that featured him accusing the NBA of being fixed:
There was also this tweet from Sindarius Thornwell, who was drafted at No. 48 by the Bucks before being traded to the Clippers, that outlined his approach to dating:
But the most interesting—and the most embarrassing—old tweets came from the No. 9 and No. 10 picks in the draft. Zach Collins went tenth overall to the Trail Blazers, and when he did, some Portland fans took to Twitter in an effort to find out more about him, since he was one of the lesser-known prospects to go in the lottery portion of the draft. What they found was this 2012 (2 Chainz-inspired?) tweet:
They also discovered this extremely awkward Vine of Collins twerking—or at least, what we think was his best attempt at twerking:
Collins deleted both of those tweets as well as a bunch of others that showed him acting a fool when he was, like, 14.
But the most embarrassing tweet of the night definitely belonged to Dennis Smith Jr., who went ninth overall to the Mavericks in the draft. Shortly after he was selected, one of his tweets from back in 2012 went viral, and it took him a long time (too long!) to take it down. It said—*cringe*—this:
The moral of the story here is pretty simple. If you’re going to spend your teenage years tweeting whatever your little heart desires, cool. But make sure you delete everything—and we do mean everything—before you’re on one of the biggest stages in sports. Or else…
If he was tipped off, he didn’t say. But if Lonzo Ball truly didn’t have assurance from the Lakers that he was going to be the second pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, he felt it in his bones. Or more accurately his feet.
Because sitting in the green room, off to the right of the podium where commissioner Adam Silver announced all 30 first round selections, Ball decided to switch shoes once the Lakers were on the clock.
Gone where the black hard bottoms he was sporting earlier. Out came a pair of the infamous Big Baller Brand ZO2s that retail for $495. Only these weren’t all black, like the ones that infamously debuted back in May. This pair was gold and purple—Lakers colors. And before Silver could say Ball’s name, he casually slipped on the sneakers because he just knew suiting up for his hometown team was his destiny.
“Just had a good feeling, and changed them five minutes before when they was on the clock, and I'm glad they called my name,” said Ball, in typically understated fashion.
The NBA’s signature fashion event, where 19-and-20-year-old kids get decked out in suits that would put every prom outside of Beverly Hills to shame, usually does not feature any wardrobe changes, other than the addition of a team hat once Silver calls your name. But Ball just might have authored an NBA first when he switched shoes in the middle of the draft.
Magic Johnson and the Lakers got their point guard of the present and future, one ESPN’s Jay Williams told us Wednesday could be “transcendent.”
Ball told Complex he changed “when [the Lakers] had the pick, right after Markelle” Fultz was chosen first by the Sixers. The Ball family had them hidden “right under the table” and Lonzo “had a feeling” he was about to be next selection. And that’s when he slipped into something way more comfortable and way more marketable than a pair of black dress shoes.
In the end, LaVar Ball, with his swagger on a hundred, thousand, trillion at Barclays Center, could do his damn thing, talk his talk, and most especially walk his signature walk. His son was drafted to the only team he ever wanted him to play for, the team he predicted months ago would wind up with his son. LaVar proved to be a prophet.
The man behind Big Baller Brand was surprisingly absent as Lonzo made his way through the arena's bowels, talking to reporters, taking part in NBA sanctioned obligations, and getting hounded by little kids for autographs. Usually, new draftees are paraded all over the arena with their handlers and based on how hands-on LaVar has been, it wasn’t out of the question to expect him to tail his son. But maybe it was by design that he didn’t, or maybe it was just happenstance that papa Ball had to stick around with the rest of his brood and babysit the younger LiAngelo and LaMelo while Lonzo basked in his crowning achievement of his 19 years of existence.
We didn’t really get to witness the bragging and boasting of LaVar afterward, which would have been gold. But he got what he wanted, what he predicted. And we, as NBA fans, got what was basically expected from the darft.
With the rest of the top 10 relatively bereft of drama, Lonzo winding up with the Lakers was arguably the biggest draft-specific story of the night. Lakers exec Magic Johnson got his point guard of the present and future, one ESPN’s Jay Williamstold us Wednesday could be “transcendent.” Predictably, Lonzo was about as emotive as a robot, barely smiling or acting like a giddy teenager you’d expect most kids in his position to be.
But at least he was rocking the freshest kicks in the house, the ones nobody else was wearing or could get their hands at the time, the ones that he can most definitely afford now that's he's a Laker.
CLEVELAND — It started off with a crazy 49-point first quarter from the Cavs, who finished with an even crazier 86 points at halftime. That was topped by the craziest third quarter the NBA Finals has ever seen when a series worth of soap opera like drama was squeezed into 12 minutes.
Game 4 of the NBA Finals was wild, ridiculous, and absurd. We saw Cleveland go bonkers on offense in the first half, the refs call 51 fouls, the seemingly random rescinding of a technical on Draymond Green, and some extracurricular activities from superstars and role players alike that will be dissected for the next two days. When it was all said and done, the Cavs were 137-116 winners and extended the series at least one more game with a physical effort we hadn’t seen through the series' first three contests.
“We took it to them first and that was very telling for the rest of the game,” Kevin Love said.
So here we are again. The Warriors are up 3-1 and headed back to the West Coast. And while we can draw as many parallels as we want to last year’s historic NBA Finals, the Cavs extending the series only feels like we’re delaying the inevitable this time around.
But before we get to that, Cleveland should be commended for preventing the Warriors from becoming the only team in NBA history to go 16-0 in the postseason. Their chance to do that was pretty much over early Friday as the Cavs blitzed Golden State for an NBA Finals record 49 points in the first quarter and an NBA Playoffs record 86 points after two. And they kept shooting lights out the rest of the way. Cleveland finished shooting 52.9 percent from the field and made an NBA Finals record 24 3-pointers. Through the first three games of the series, Cleveland had only made 31 threes.
Quicken Loans Arena was rocking as the Cavs treated their fans to a rollicking performance led by Kyrie Irving’s 40 points. LeBron James recorded his 9th NBA Finals triple-double, surpassing Magic Johnson for the all-time mark, going for 31, 11, and 10 while Love added 23 and J.R, Smith contributed 15.
“We played a desperate team at home and they came out and handed it to us. Simple as that.”
It was a feel good night for the Cavs and their fans, for sure. The crowd was hyped from the start and the Cavs, who were ripe to be blown out following Game 3’s devastating loss, fed off their energy. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said there was no special pregame speech. He liked his squad’s attitude during the morning’s shootaround. “Guys were upbeat. No hanging heads,” he said. Maybe the Warriors were too caught up in chasing history?
“I don’t think there was any thoughts or concerns about history,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We played a desperate team at home and they came out and handed it to us. Simple as that.”
This one will be remembered for the truly bizarre third quarter. We had LeBron’s self-pass off the backboard for a dunk that will go down as one of the Finals’ most memorable plays. Later on, the King and Kevin Durant were jawing at each other and drew duel techs. “We weren't coming to blows, we were just talking,” Durant said. A little over a minute after that, Green was tossed for earning a second technical before he wasn’t. The refs ended up giving it to Steve Kerr instead. Finally, we saw Groingate v. 2017 when it looked like Zaza Pachulia took a swipe at Iman Shumpert’s sensitive area during a scrum for a loose ball.
NBA conspiracy theory junkies will have a field day dissecting that and all the fouls called by the refs in Cleveland's favor, especially in the first quarter. With the Finals enjoying some of their highest ratings in years, we all know the league really wants it to extend as long as possible and early on the zebras seemingly did their part. The Cavs went to the free throw line 22 times in the first 12 minutes. Somewhere in the bowels of Quicken Loans Arena, or back in New York—wherever he was—it was like commissioner Adam Silver was pulling all the right strings to at least extend the Finals to five games.
But does this really change anything? Has momentum swung back in the Cavs favor? The Cavs deserve credit for not rolling over and letting the Warriors celebrate a title on their floor. They were gritty, gutty, and grimy, playing physical for the first time all series and roughing up the Warriors. But let’s be real here: the Warriors were their own worst enemy in Game 4. Featuring a ton of isolation and practically none of their signature run and gun offense or precision ball movement, the second half saw the Warriors brick a ton threes and settle for low percentage long twos. Golden State finished shooting 28.2 percent from beyond the arc, well below their 39.6 percent average this postseason. Yes, the Cavs are the second best team in the league and getting one of the Warriors shouldn’t come as a surprise. But the Dubs were due for a dud.
“It was one of those nights where we didn’t have anything clicking,” Steph Curry said
The “Cavs in 7’ chant that broke near the end of the game was cute, an ode to the tweet JR Smith claims he didn’t send out following Game 3. But the chances the Cavs faithful see their team play again in person are slim to none. The Warriors were garbage in Game 4, a hot mess on offense, and now they’re headed home where they have lost just once in their last 16 games. They’ve been the superior team three out of four games. They were the superior team during the regular season and during their run to the Finals. They have a potential championship clinching Game 5 Monday in Oracle Arena where they trounced Cleveland in the first two games of the series and once back in January. Draymond won't be suspended for Game 5 like last year. And most importantly they still have more firepower and more superstars than the Cavs, starting with the biggest difference maker, KD.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: there was a basketball game on Thursday night. It was Game 1 of the NBA finals. Some shots were taken, people ran up and down the court and stuff, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-91.
But to many people who watched (and announced, and played in) the game, the real star wasn't LeBron or Steph Curry, but rather Rihanna. The pop star was in the audience for Game 1, and was not shy about letting it be known who she was rooting for—and against.
From courtside, she apparently heckled KD during a free throw.
Despite a series of highlight-reel dunks and the usual parade of stars on hand, the 2017 NBA All-Star Game fell flat for a lot of basketball fans. Taking a few plays off is one thing, but fans increasingly feel the league's mid-season event lacks an element of competitiveness to make it compelling.
In lieu of blaming millennials for this problem, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is in search of a solution to restore the former glory of the All-Star Game. Speaking at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston on Saturday, Silver told the crowd that Chris Paul reached out on behalf of the player's union to start a dialogue on the matter. Per Five Thirty Eight's Chris Herring:
Adam Silver said union president Chris Paul reached out to him day after ASG said something has to be done to make gm more competitive
This is an encouraging sign. The league can do a lot of things, but it can't force buy-in from players who are mostly trying to get through the event unscathed. They need to rest up for playoff runs and pushes, so defense is firmly optional at All-Star weekend.
But just when you thought things were headed in the right direction, Silver dropped quite a bomb on the Sloan audience:
Silver just floated the idea of adding a 4-point shot in the ASG, or even a 10-point shot from halfcourt in the final minute of the game
It's hard to understand the logic here. The NBA supposedly wants their players to take the game more seriously, but one of the public suggestions for change from the league's own commissioner is to fundamentally change the game? It's a ludicrous idea and doesn't do much to serve their stated goal of making it competitive.
Players are already speaking out against the premise. Warriors superstar Steph Curryspoke to ESPN's Chris Haynes after Silver teased the idea on Saturday, and he flat-out said a 10-point shot from half-court, “would make it worse.”
A few of Curry's teammates and fellow All-Stars agreed with their leader. Draymond Green offered a simple solution: “Raise the money,” he said. “I'm serious. That's how you're going to make it more competitive.”
Klay Thompson concurred with Green on the importance of upping the stakes, and made clear the reason many players are tentative to exert maximum effort. “Fear of being injured is a factor. You don’t want to get injured in a game that really has no implications,” he said.
If the league wants to add some more financial incentive for the winning team, or do almost anything to change the motivational factors, those are real discussions to be had. Participants in the game, including probable flat-Earth truther Kyrie Irving, have already expressed a desire to ramp up the defense in future contests. The NBA doesn't need to reinvent the wheel to get things pointed in the right direction.
Silver should certainly take advice from All-Stars who are interested in a more competitive game. But someone please tell him to start ignoring whoever had the 10-point shot idea.
Colin Kaepernick became the center of controversy for his national anthem protest last season, but he was far from the only athlete leveraging pre-game festivities to protest. United States Women's National Team player Megan Rapinoe was one of many athletes to join Kaepernick last fall, causing controversy by eschewing the tradition of standing while the Star-Spangled Banner plays.
The U.S. Soccer Federation took a controversial step to combat this form of protest on Saturday. Former U.S. National Team player Stuart Holden, currently an analyst for Fox Soccer, shared this photo of a new policy added to the federation's by-laws:
This legislation bans the form of protest used by Rapinoe and Kaepernick in any game involving U.S. Soccer. Holden shared additional information as soccer fans questioned the details of the new rule, and revealed that it effectively affords the federation unlimited power to reprimand players should they break the rule.
Things appeared to be heading in this direction for a while. After the initial protest by Rapinoe in September, the U.S. Soccer Federationreleased a statement expressing their desire to have players stand for the anthem.
“Representing your country is a privilege and honor for any player or coach that is associated with U.S. Soccer's National Teams. Therefore, our national anthem has particular significance for U.S. Soccer,” the USSF said in their September statement. “As part of the privilege to represent your country, we have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the national anthem is played.”
Commissioners for America's major sports leagues have expressed similar thoughts, though they've differentiated themselves by voicing sympathy for an athlete's right to protest. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell played both sides of the fence when he discussed Kaepernick last September, saying the league believed “very strongly in patriotism” while acknowledging “we don't live in a perfect society.”
NBA boss Adam Silvertook a similar approach before the 2016-17 season began. Discussing the matter at the annual board of governors meeting in New York, Silver told reporters, “It would be my hope that they continue to stand for the national anthem.” Silver highlighted the league's preference to take meaningful action — such as when they removed the All-Star Game from North Carolina — when faced with social issues and opportunities to make an impact.
U.S. Soccer's decision to pander exclusively to one view was not received well, and dissenters took to Twitter to express their frustration with the new rule.
Geoff Cameron: a Muslim ban is actually good.
Rapinoe: Racism is bad.
US soccer: Ok we’ve heard enough from you, Megan. Thanks.
Regardless of how you feel about people protesting during the national anthem, mandating what people have to do during a song meant to celebrate American freedom is pretty absurd. America is supposed to stand for the abilityto do and say what you want while others do the same, and restricting that for people quite literally representing the country sends a confusing message.
This probably won't be the last you'll hear on anthem protests, even if Kaepernick himself claims he'll stand during the anthem from now on. If nothing else, this proves using the anthem as a means of protest will keep the story in the public consciousness.