May 12, 1985 : The Day That Changed The Fortunes Of The Knicks, Scores And The Popularity Of The High-Top Fade
While newly ensconced Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni openly fantasizes about a lottery result that might enable New York to select Memphis G Derrick Rose, Newsday’s Alan Hahn hops in the time machine to recall the 1985 lottery that left Dave DeBusschere grinning and much of the league seething.
The envelope wasn’t frozen, but David Stern certainly felt as if he was when he pulled out a placard with the Pacers’ logo 23 years ago at the Waldorf Astoria – leaving the Knicks with the No. 1 pick in the draft. He heard the cheers and the snickers and knew what was next.
“Oh, God, I can’t believe it,” Stern recalled saying to himself. “Now everyone’s going to want to know how I did it.”
“We’ve made great, great advances,” Stern said of the now- very-complex lottery system, “and the conspiracy theories haven’t made the same advances.
Conspiracy theorists say Stern either froze the Knicks’ envelope, heated it or dog-eared it so he knew which to pull first from the clear, round drum that was spun just before the drawing, which took place May 12, 1985, and was televised live on CBS. It was the first NBA draft lottery and the jackpot was a big one: Georgetown All-American Patrick Ewing.
Many around the league believed it was all a setup so the struggling Knicks would land the franchise center.
“I’m just not a conspiracy guy. I know a lot of people are; I’m just not that kind of guy,” said Stan Kasten, who was general manager of the Atlanta Hawks at the time. “But I did immediately flash on all the people who were not only believing it subsequently but people who told me ahead of time, ‘Watch, this is what’s going to happen.’
According to the current structure of the lottery, the Knicks have a 7.6 percent chance – 76 balls out of 1,000 – to win. For perspective, the team with the worst record, Miami, will have 250 balls out of 1,000. Four balls are drawn per pick, starting with the No. 1 selection, and the sequence determines the team that wins the pick.
“I don’t even understand it anymore,” Stern said with a laugh. “It’s totally beyond me.”