Writing an article about conspiracy theories is basically just a license to slander. I'm like the James Bond of unethical journalism in this piece because I found seven urban sports legends that appeal to the cynic in all of us. Take them as fact, conjecture or a basic water cooler talk. But whatever you do, don't tell Michael Jordan you know the real reason he quit basketball.
Photo: Tom Dulat/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
7. Phil Mickelson Signed with Callaway Golf Because they Agreed to Clear his Gambling Debts
In 2004, fresh off his first win at the Masters, Phil Mickelson elected to abandon his Titlest golf clubs and start using Callaways. The decision seemed odd and proved ultimately dreadful. In his first two rounds with the new hardware Mickelson played the worst golf of his career and subsequently struggled over the next few tournaments.
Nobody knew why “lefty” made the switch, but conspiracy theorists did offer some opinions.
The Sports Business Journal reported that
The caddie cliques [notes] that Mickelson switched from Titleist to Callaway last September “because he has run up considerable gambling debt [and Callaway agreed to pay them off].” But Callaway officials “are irate about the rumor and yesterday explained that … they had an intensive background check done on Mickelson’s gambling history.” A Callaway source: “It came back completely clean”
Is it customary to run the gambling history of new employees? Seems like there’s a little fire coming from the smoke Callaway is blowing up our asses.
It’s also worth noting that one year at the Las Vegas open Mickelson withdrew from play because of an illness he contracted the Friday night of the tournament. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I thought the preferred term was “addiction.”
6. The Real Reason Chris Pronger Demanded a Trade from Edmonton
Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Following an inexplicable run to the Stanley Cup finals, Chris Pronger – the NHL’s Aryan answer to unwanted genital warts – demanded a trade from the Edmonton Oilers. At the time, Pronger claimed that his wife was behind the move as she was tired of living in a city whose glamorous attractions included an over-sized shopping mall and a street named after Esa Tikkanen
In actuality – according to shady, unnamed sources – this was a half truth. Although Pronger’s wife did demand the trade, it was reportedly because her loving and occasionally faithful husband knocked up an ambitious reporter looking to sleep her way to the top of the Edmonton journalism community. It would be somewhat uncouth to besmirch the young woman’s reputation, but if you have some spare time try Googling the phrase “Christie Chorley pregnant” and see what comes up.
5. The Boston Celtics’ (kind of) Poisoned Opposing Teams
Photo: Creative/Getty Images
With the exception of Tiger Woods and tax evasion chain gangs at white collar summer camps, nobody understands the old adage of “it’s only cheating if you get caught” quite like legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach.
Legend has it that Auerbach used advantageous – and non-prohibited – plumbing techniques to gain an edge over visiting opponents. The heralded bench boss allegedly turned off the hot water in the visitors’ locker room and connected their drinking fountains to the sewage pipes. It’s unclear if this helped Auerbach win the game or just spread Hepatitis. What we do know s that he won more NBA titles than anybody before him, so questioning his methods would be ridiculous.
(Note: Now that Bill Belichick has also been caught cheating while coaching a Boston area sports team, is it too cheesy to ask if there’s “something in the water” affecting their moral compass?)
4. Wayne Gretzky Blames His Wife For the Family Gambling Problems
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
In 2006, Janet Gretzky (yes, the star of the 1973 classic short film “Gollocks! There’s Plenty of Room in New Zealand”) admitted to placing Super Bowl bets with her husband’s good friend Rich Tocchet. Conveniently, the admission came after many people speculated that her far more important husband had made the bets.
Seeing as an NHL head coach is strictly prohibited from gambling on sports and “female witness 3” in the movie “Alpha Dog” has limited wagering restrictions, it seems like a no-brainer conspiracy theory.
3, LeBron James Left Cleveland After His Mother took her Sexual Talents to Delonte West’s Bedroom
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
To be fair, there are hundreds of possible reasons why LeBron James left Cleveland in order to ply his trade on the sunny beaches of South Beach. Chief amongst them perhaps is that Zydrunas Ilgauskas looks great in a bikini.
However, the most intriguing rumor surrounding James’ departure centered around his mother’s romantic relations to his teammate (and gun-toting lunatic) Delonte West. Although West and James both deny that the affair happened, some insiders believe that basketball’s most notable player was so distraught about the rumors that he wanted to distance himself from the situation. Luckily, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were available for five contractual years of pigging out on Chocolate Ice Cream and sharing their feelings.
2. Babe Ruth Missed Part of the 1925 Season Because of a Venereal Disease
Photo: Transcendental Sports/Getty Images
You know the old expression “repeatedly having unprotected sex stops being cool once you graduate college?” Well, according to conspiracy theorists, nobody taught Babe Ruth this lesson when he played for the New York Yankees.
During the 1925 season, Ruth was sidelined for two months with a mysterious stomach illness that was never treated by the team doctor. While it’s entirely possible that his time on the injured reserve was simply to nurse a hangover, critics believe that a “burning sensation” in his little bambino was the real reason for Ruth’s absence.
1. Michael Jordan was Forced to Retire
Photo: Dave Sandford/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Remember when Michael Jordan retired from basketball in 1993 because the death of his father inspired him to continually strike out and drop fly balls in minor league baseball games? Well, according to people who secretly hoped John Stockton could win a title in his airness’ absence, Jordan didn’t elect to temporarily leave the game due to personal reasons, but was instead “secretly forced” to walk away by David Stern over gambling issues.
Jordan is a self-admitted gambler who once lost $1 million on a hole of golf. David Stern is (or at least should be) a self-admitted hypocrite who routinely urinates all over the game of basketball. Is it inconceivable to think that upon discovering some wagering malfeasance with the game’s greatest player he secretly banished him for two seasons rather than giving him the Pete Rose treatment?