Wherever you find a losing sports team, you will find fans calling shenanigans. And, thanks to people like Bill Belichick, sometimes they're right.
The fact is some of the greatest coaches, players and games in history have been dogged by rumors of cheating and outright corruption, some of the accusations so outlandish and retarded that they couldn't possibly be true.
Or could they?
7The Moment: The Most Iconic Image of Muhammad Ali
The Insane Theory :
Muhammad Ali was the greatest sports icon of the second half of the 20th century. He floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee, and didn't believe there was anything gay at all about that claim. But despite a long and storied career that spanned decades and continents, the most famous photograph of him was taken early in his career in Maine, at the most poorly attended and controversial heavyweight championship bout ever held.
Not pictured: legitimacy
The fight was a rematch and the poor bastard Ali's standing over was Sonny Liston. Their first fight had ended mysteriously when Liston refused to come out of his corner. In the months leading up to the rematch, they had a difficult time securing a venue, partially due to rumors of mob involvement, which is how they ended up in Maine. Making things all the more shady, nobody saw the punch that knocked Liston out. While the resulting photograph makes Ali look like he's celebrating in triumph, those who were ringside claim Ali was actually yelling at Liston to get up, presumably so he could at least wait for a more plausible punch before taking a dive.
Why it Might be True :
In the seedy world of professional boxing, Liston was perhaps the dirtiest and most mysterious guy in the ring. No one knew, including Liston, when or where he was born. Liston had done time and apparently had underworld connections, including having his contract owned by notorious and prominent Mafiosos.
Because of that, there were rumors that Liston bet against himself because he owed money to the mob and really didn't feel like getting fitted with a pair of cliche cement shoes.
Artistic rendering of Liston's Mob Boss.
To make things worse, apparently Liston had another group to fear: the Black Muslims who supported Ali. The word, coming straight from one of Liston's trainers, is that Liston was so petrified of being murdered by the group that he decided it just wasn't worth it to mix it up with Ali. So taking the dive may have killed two birds with one stone.
Or not, since Liston died a mysterious death (the cops declared it a heroin overdose, but he barely had any in his system), causing some to speculate he was murdered. Man, if you can't trust Mob bosses and violent extremists, who can you trust?
6The Moment: Michael Jordan Retires For No Reason
The Insane Theory :
It wasn't a great moment if you were a Bulls fans, but Jordan's first retirement was one of the biggest and most inexplicable stories of the '90s. He was in his prime and his Bulls were unbeatable. They'd just won their third straight title and showed no signs of slowing down. Jordan is by all accounts one of the most psychotically competitive human beings on the planet and he was in place to challenge the record of eight straight titles. It just made no sense that Jordan would hang up his overpriced sneakers in October of 1993.
Well, unless you believe the theory that it wasn't exactly a standard retirement. Some folks claim it was an under-the-table suspension imposed by David Stern after word leaked that MJ was losing money by the fistful thanks to a crippling gambling problem.
Why it Might be True :
Despite his squeaky clean corporate image, Michael Jordan had a few vices. Namely: gambling, gambling, and more gambling (though since retirement he has added 'underwear commercials that make us uncomfortable' to that list). Author Richard Esquinas went public with claims that he had won roughly $1.3 million off of MJ during their frequent golf games, officially making His Airness the best person to ever have in your foursome. MJ was also no stranger to casinos, even during the NBA playoffs.
Far more disturbing were the unsubstantiated rumors that his father, who was killed in a shooting, had been murdered in connection to his son's gambling debts.
Obviously this would be a nightmare for the NBA, since Jordan was the face of the sport at the time. So the theory goes that something needed to be done to rein Jordan in, but any public suspension would be a PR disaster.
Instead, Stern banished MJ to a super secret, hush-hush year-long suspension and indirectly to an embarrassing stint in Minor League Baseball. After seeing MJ's swing at the plate, we think it was a pretty fair punishment.
Wait, you mean this wasn't his idea?
Only days after Jordan's retirement, the NBA wrapped up its investigation into MJ's gambling allegations, declaring that Jordan hadn't done anything wrong. Except for, you know, betting a shitload of money on sports.
When the question was posed as to whether Jordan would ever consider un-retiring, MJ said yes, "If David Stern lets me." The conspiracy theorists pounced on this peculiar statement, noting that if it were a legit retirement, Stern would be batshit crazy not to let Jordan back in the league.
Since the whole thing could have been arranged in a single meeting between MJ and Stern, we may never know the truth. Of course, they said the same thing about Deep Throat, and that didn't stay secret forever. We know now that was Linda Lovelace.