Like It or Not, Our Championships Will be Tainted

Published: June 17, 2012

On June 23rd, 2017 the confetti will come down in the Arena as Commissioner Adam Silver hands the trophy to New Orleans Brass owner Tom Benson before he passes it on to Coach of the Year Monty Williams and Finals MVP Anthony Davis. Fans will be going crazy in Champions Square, and the talk in bars up and down Bourbon Street will be of the impending dynasty that we are all about to witness. Unfortunately, I fear that the national narritive will be much different.

If we are to make anything of this week’s Jim Rome/David Stern verbal tickle fight, it is that this “conspiracy” talk will be a black cloud hanging over the franchise- a cloud that will only be done away by irrelevance. If the Hornets/Brass/Angels remain an irrelavent team there is no need to worry about the ‘Stern CP3 Veto’ or ‘Stern Lottery Fix’ being brought up by radio shock jocks or sensational journalists masquerading as “reporters.” But once they start to win, and win big, rest assured that we will be forced to listen to these uninformed media members resurrect these non-stories from the past in an effort to get page clicks and podcast downloads.

And if you think that time will pass and people will let go, then obviously you have not followed the NBA narrative for the past thirty years. It’s 2012, and people still talk about the fact that Stern fixed the 1985 lottery as if it is fact. According to some, the only reason the Houston Rockets were two-time champions in the mid-90’s was because Commissioner Stern forced MJ to take a hiatus after some issues with gambling. Enter the next great conspiracy once the Hornets start winning big at the end of this decade.

In all honesty, it is not exactly a lose-lose situation, as much as it might seem that I am making it out to be. Fans of other teams will cry, bitch, and moan about the events that transpired in 2011 and 2012, while New Orleans fans hold up their middle fingers to the rest of the country in defiance. Winning a title that some claim is not 100% legit is not a bad problem to have. But it is not ideal, either.

First, let’s be clear about what we are talking about when we say ‘tainted.’ In this situation, we are talking about when people use it to say that something is: affected with a bad or undesirable quality. So for a championship not to be tainted, it must have been attained in such a way that nobody can claim that anything about the way that the team pursued and captured trophy was anything less than flawless in the eyes of the every member of the public. When you look at it that way, nearly every championship is tainted- but there are levels.

Level One: Did Nothing Wrong, A Victim of Circumstance

This usually happens when a team wins a title in a year when a major injury occurs. Doc Rivers points out that that Boston Starting 5 never lost a series in which all five guys played the entire series. KG was out the entire 2009 playoffs because of injury, and Kendrick Perkins missed Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2010 because of injury. Did this taint the Lakers back-to-back titles in any way? Some say yes. The Houston Rockets did nothing wrong in the mid-90’s, it just so happens that their titles came during the 18 month hiatus of the greatest player on the planet. The 1999 Spurs also fit into this level, winners of a title in a 50-game strike shortened season that was in no way their fault.

Level Two: Guilt by Association

This level has more to do with public perception than anything else. There is no smoking gun, no facts, but a large amount of people just assume guilt here and therefore question the legitimacy of the title. Lance Armstrong is a perfect example, as we have no concrete evidence that he participated in any wrong doing, but the sport has seen rider after rider test positive and the whispers grow louder every year.

Level Three: Breaking Unwritten Rules

Often times people mistakenly believe that Major League players were breaking the rules when they took PED’s, but there actually weren’t any rules in place at the time that banned Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa from loading up on anabolic steroids. Was it frowned upon, and even in some cases, illegal? Yes. But were they breaking any major league rules? No. Some people want to question the legitimacy of the Red Sox titles now that it seems all but certain that Manny and Big Papi took PED’s, but you can’t break a rule that isn’t written down.

Level Four: Intentionally Bending the Rules

Sorry Saints fans, but we gotta go there. SpyGate and BountyGate will forever hang clouds over the titles of the Patriots and Saints, respectively. Both teams engaged in practices that were frowned upon by the league, both in the ways that teams should morally conduct themselves and in the plain black and white language of the law. By engaging in these practices, they gave themselves unfair competative advantages that might have (or might not have) been the difference in winning their titles.

Level Five: Intentionally Breaking Rules and/or Sabotaging Opponents

College Football has a list of these types of champions a mile long, in large part due to the fact that everyone intentionally breaks the rules and eventually some are going to get caught. As for the sabotaging opponents, it’s more rare, but we can all remember this attempt. 

When the Hornets win it all, there will be people labeling it a level two or three, citing Stern’s involvement in the CP3 trade and the “suspicious” lottery win that was not televised for the world to see. Never mind that every team involved in the lotto had a representative in the room and an independent company handled the lotto balls, that’s not good enough! The world needs to see the balls come up with their own eyes, then they need to physically handle each lotto ball to make sure they are not weighted, test their temperature, and who knows what else.

Some will make their comments in jest, while others will exaggerate the events that took place in the hope that they elicit outrage from their readers/listeners. It is sad, because no matter how hard we try to educate others on the way each of these events actually went down, their minds have been made up for them by media members trying to sell a more sensational narrative. So beware Hornets fans, there are millions out there who will make it their mission to try and put a damper on your Bourbon Street Championship Parade. Pay them no mind, however, for all they possess is ignorance while the city of New Orleans relishes yet another championship trophy.


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