The Biggest Sports-Related Conspiracy Theories

Over 1.2K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Biggest Sports-Related Conspiracy Theories
Voting Rules
Vote for the craziest sports scandals that are hard to believe.

Conspiracy theories and salacious rumors are just as prevalent in sports, both professional and college, as they are in politics and entertainment. Whether your team lost on a strange last play, or the team you bet on looked like it took a dive, the money and competitive nature of sports make it a natural breeding ground for unsubstantiated myths to take hold. There are tons of sports conspiracy theories floating around out there, but which ones do you believe?

From sexy sports scandals to Michael Jordan's "flu" and more than a few boxing matchups that ended suspiciously, there's a sports conspiracy for almost any big game you can think of. These crazy sports theories, urban legends, and rumors all took place in the sports world, and some just might be true.

Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

  • The 1972 US Basketball Team Got Robbed
    Photo: NCAA Photos/Contributor / NCAA Photos/Getty Images
    512 VOTES

    The 1972 US Basketball Team Got Robbed

    One of the most controversial endings in sports history, the US Men’s Basketball team lost to the Soviet team in the Finals of the 1972 Olympics, with Russia getting three chances to score a winning basket.

    A combination of unclear rules, seemingly random clock stoppages and bizarre referee decisions gave the Soviet team enough chances to win 51-50, kicking off 40 years of accusations and denials, with the American team never having accepted their silver medals.

    512 votes
  • The NBA Is Totally Rigged
    Photo: Ronald Martinez/Stringer / Getty Images Sport
    511 VOTES

    The NBA Is Totally Rigged

    Ever since NBA referee Tim Donaghy went public with his involvement in gambling and on influencing the outcome of games, sports writers and fans have had concrete evidence to back up what they’ve suspected all along: that the league is rigged to allow the best teams to make the most money, with lucrative playoff series being extended and star players being earmarked for major franchises.

    It was Donaghy who first stated outright that the infamous Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals was fixed to extend the series and keep the Lakers alive. Of course, Donaghy himself has put himself in a position to profit from this rigging, selling betting tips and keeping himself in the news.

    511 votes
  • The Head Of Maradona, The Hand Of God
    Photo: Getty Images/Staff / Hulton Archive/Getty Images
    297 VOTES

    The Head Of Maradona, The Hand Of God

    Was the most famous goal in world soccer history, Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup against England, actually punched in by the Argentinian striker?

    Maradona has, in his usual gadfly style, fanned the flames of the controversy, while subsequent photographic evidence has shown pretty clearly that Maradona palmed the ball in, meaning it shouldn’t have counted. But it did, and a legend was born.

    297 votes
  • Patrick Ewing And The Frozen Envelope
    Photo: Bettmann/Contributor / Bettmann/Getty Images
    325 VOTES

    Patrick Ewing And The Frozen Envelope

    Long one of the most popular rumors in NBA history, the Patrick Ewing frozen envelope theory has the league rigging their draft lottery (long thought to be crooked) to get the biggest college star to the team in the biggest market, a flailing franchise that desperately needed a superstar.

    Then NBA Commissioner David Stern has always laughed off the rumor that his league fixed the lottery, and New York getting the first pick in 1985 is just one of many longshot draft lottery happenings – all of which are next to impossible to prove.

    325 votes
  • Delonte West Hooked Up With LeBron James's Mom
    Photo: Gregory Shamus/Stringer / Getty Images Sport
    283 VOTES

    Delonte West Hooked Up With LeBron James's Mom

    One of the strangest rumors to hit pro sports in recent years is that former Cleveland Cavaliers player Delonte West was carrying on affair with LeBron James’s mother – and that when it came to light, it destroyed the team and ended West’s NBA career. The source of the rumor was an email that started going around the day after the Cavs were eliminated from the 2010 NBA playoffs by Boston.

    As with almost all chain emails, its original source is lost to history, with the whistleblower being anyone from a contractor at the Cavs home arena to a relative of James to some guy somebody knew. The fact that it was impossible to attribute also made it impossible to kill, and it went from chain email to national news in a week. Since then James left, and then went back to the Cavs, while West bombed out of the NBA and started playing in China

    283 votes
  • Sonny Liston Took A Dive For Muhammad Ali
    Photo: George Silk/Contributor / The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
    278 VOTES

    Sonny Liston Took A Dive For Muhammad Ali

    It’s long been thought that Sonny Liston took a dive for Muhammad Ali (then still fighting under his birth name of Cassius Clay) when they fought for the second time in 1965. Ali’s “phantom punch” knocked Liston down in the first round, despite barely connecting with the fighter. There were rumors of some kind of mafia involvement, or possibly that Liston was deep in debt and bet against himself.

    No investigation ever proved that anything untoward happened, and everyone involved denied the same. At worst, Liston might have realized Clay was going to beat the stuffing out of him, and wanted no part of it.

    278 votes