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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?

7
The 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?

6
The 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.

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5
The Moment: The Shot Heard Round the World

The Insane Theory :

In 1951, baseball's New York Giants found themselves trailing the Brooklyn Dodgers by 13.5 games in the standings with less than two months to go. Typically teams faced with such an insurmountable deficit call it a season and start stocking away grain alcohol for those long winter months.

But with the possible exception of Philadelphians, no one likes losing. So, the Giants decided to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, try extra hard and play great, fundamental baseball. When that failed they decided to just cheat their way back into contention.

How did they do it? Well, believe it or not, Bill Belichick didn't invent signal stealing.


Except, when the Giants cheated, they won.

Allegedly during their home games, the Giants would send a coach out to center field armed with a telescope and electronic buzzer with which to steal and relay the other team's signs to the hitter. Since it happened in the black and white era, we're forced to assume this led to Three Stooges-style slapstick shenanigans; a buzzer malfunction leading to some good old fashioned genital shocking, if we had to guess.

During the final stretch of the season, the Giants managed to make up their huge deficit and force a three game playoff with the Dodgers, culminating in Bobby Thompson's now legendary home run to win the pennant, which sportswriters dubbed "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" because they figured nothing else important already had dibs on that name.

Why it Might be True :

Exactly 50 years after the Giants cemented their place in history, Wall Street Journal writer Joshua Prager published a book detailing how the Giants stole signals and with them, the pennant.

Two years later in 2003, the Associated Press ran a piece in which they quoted former Giants Monte Irvin, Sal Yvars and Al Gettel admitting that the team cheated through the duration of the comeback.

But, they also said that knowing what pitch was coming didn't really give them an advantage, and that they didn't steal signals during the playoff series. They also presumably insisted that being professional baseball players never got them laid.

4
The Moment: Junior Wins One for His Dad

The Insane Theory :

In February 2001, NASCAR fans lost their most legendary driver at their most legendary event when Dale Earnhardt was tragically killed during the last lap of the Daytona 500. In June of that same year, NASCAR returned to Daytona and what transpired resembled a Hollywood ending, only without slow motion and melodramatic music.

Earnhardt's son Dale Jr. found himself in seventh place with only six laps to go, but somehow, miraculously, managed to come from behind for the storybook victory at the racetrack that claimed his father's life.

Many fans and rival drivers have been vocal about Junior's win being just a bit too perfect, and hinted that NASCAR may have been pulling some strings in order to give Junior the emotional win and, presumably, their sport a ratings boost. Either that or the drivers who had been ahead of Junior suddenly developed the driving habits of elderly women.

Why it Might be True :

From May of 2000 until his win at Daytona in June of 2001, Junior had won exactly zero times, a span of 36 races. Keep in mind that this is a sport where your success is largely determined by how fast your car goes. Unless you're driving the little engine that could, inspiration can only take you so far.

But driving the car that was on a 36 race losing streak, he somehow passed six cars in two laps, which is a feat only repeated by Ricky Bobby as far as we know. Some have suggested that the drivers ahead of Junior eased back to let him win, while others have speculated that NASCAR gave Junior preferential treatment in his car's inspection, allowing him to soup up the car that had been losing.

Even racing legends like Bill Elliot, Richard Petty, and Richard Petty's mustache believe that something is fishy with NASCAR. Elliot in particular has been vocal, suggesting that "they still try to dictate results."


Mustache Mustache Mustache.

Then again, what do you expect from a sport that shares its main demographic with WWE?

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3
The Moment: Every Great NBA Playoff Series Since the 80s

The Insane Theory :

NBA commissioner David Stern makes his second appearance on the list. If the NBA was the Mafia David Stern would be its Vito Corleone, if Vito Corleone came from the Shire instead of Sicily.

Hell, he's even a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (a group that some think secretly runs the world). Players dread getting called to his office in New York, and there are unconfirmed reports that upon leaving their meetings with Stern, they can be heard repeatedly muttering the phrase "one of us."


Stern, seen here, preparing for his new job as a Bond villain.

Theorists have said that for the duration of Stern's reign, things have played out a bit too conveniently, in the sense that big market teams seem to get all of the advantages. Many people, most notably ESPN.com's Sports Guy, point to the fact that the first year the league used a lottery to determine draft position, the league's biggest market team, the New York Knicks, somehow managed to land the top pick. They drafted Patrick Ewing, widely considered to be the sweatiest man to ever play the game.

Even worse, those same big-market teams seem to get some pretty favorable calls in the playoffs. This past season there were rumors that Stern was pulling the strings in order to get his most storied franchises, Boston and Los Angeles, into the finals.

How? Why, by having the referees make sure the calls went the right way. But even if Stern was as corrupt as Satan, the refs would never go along with such a scheme, right?

Why it Might be True :

Two words: Tim Donaghy.

Donaghy was an NBA referee, and an FBI investigation turned up evidence that he had a bit of a gambling problem. You can see where this is going. Rumors swirled that Donaghy owed money to the Mob (presumably the one that's not run by Stern) and started betting on games he worked so he could assure he got the right outcome.

A sports betting site figured out that nearly 60% of the games worked by Donaghy saw the participating teams going over the Vegas point projections, a number so high that gambling experts insisted could not have been reached without an outside influence.


"Kobe, I gotta be honest, I'm in a bit of a bind and I could really use a favor."

So we have at least that much evidence that refs are corruptible. Now consider what Donaghy had to say about the 2002 playoff game between Sacramento and the Lakers, which many say is a prime example of referees stepping in and making sure the big market team won.

We're not going to say any more. We'll let you be the judge. Partially because the evidence isn't at all conclusive, but mainly because David Stern fucking terrifies us.

2
The Moment: The Greatest NFL Game Ever Played

The Insane Theory:

The 1958 NFL Championship between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants has often been called the greatest game in NFL history, with the Colts pulling out a 23-17 overtime victory behind the strong play of legendary quarterback Johnny Unitas and his Dolph Lundgrenesque crew cut.

What we're here to tell you, however, is that if it had been a 2.5 point spread it likely would have ended in a 20-17 decision. The word is that Baltimore owner Carroll Rosenbloom had laid $1 million on his Colts to cover the Vegas spread of 3.5 points, a move that would have made Pete Rose green with envy. So when his team marched into easy field goal territory in sudden death overtime, word came down from the man in charge to go for six--and risk losing the game--in order to cover the pointspread.

So instead of trying a sure-thing field goal from the nine-yard-line, the Colts ran two more plays with Alan Ameche punching it in and giving Rosenbloom a fat payday. In the years after the game, Rosenbloom denied he'd manipulated the outcome. Instead, he said he simply didn't think kicker Steve Myrha would hit the field goal, providing early evidence that everyone hates kickers.


"Mothafucka's got to get paid."

Why it Might be True :

The theory has been written about in various books, such as The New Conspiracy Reader and the wager gets mentioned in basically every other article written about the game.

While Rosenbloom may have been correct in his assertion that Myrha pretty much sucked, as evidenced by his dismal 4-of-10 performance during the regular season, the fact remains that without Myrha the game would never have gone to overtime in the first place.

Myrha had previously hit a 20-yarder in the fourth quarter, a distance not too different from what he would have faced in overtime. Still, after the Colts had gotten inside the 10-yard-line, they defied all football logic by having Unitas throw a dangerous pass rather than hand the ball off on the next play to edge closer for the field goal.

Then, with the ball at the one (a distance from which even we could have kicked a field goal), they again decided to risk it and run another play. Of course, the next play happened to be Ameche's touchdown, so no one second guessed them.

How convenient.

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1
The Moment: Red Auerbach and the Celtics Set Record for Consecutive Championships

The Insane Theory :

Back in the 1960s, the Boston Celtics were absolutely dominant and when playing at home, damn near unbeatable. The mastermind behind the Celtics was famed cigar lover Red Auerbach.

Many believe Red was the greatest coach in basketball history. That is, if by "coach" you mean "son of a bitch." That's because many believe that the Celtics were only invincible at the Boston Garden because Red was a dirty cheating bastard.

Why it Might be True :

After Red's death in 2006, sports writers from around the nation started telling their stories about what a rascal Auerbach was, many of which confirmed the underhanded pranks that he liked to play on opponents.

It was little things, mostly, like turning off the air conditioning and hot water for the opposing locker room. Or, you know, having the water fountains in the opposing locker room hooked directly into the sewage line.

That's right. In fact, in his obituary in USA Today, these deeds are mentioned so casually that you might think making the opposing team drink your feces was all part of the game.

We actually prefer to think this is either a trumped-up rumor or maybe something they stole from an old Ernest movie. It's just too disgusting.

We do know one thing, though: if, after your death, people actually celebrate the fact that you literally made opponents gargle your shit, you're a goddamn legend.

For some people we know cheated (including a cameo from our good friend Sonny Liston) read about The 7 Ballsiest Sports Cheats Ever. Or take in some culture with our look at The 10 Most Insane "Sports" in the World.

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