"Frozen Envelope" or "Creased Envelope" Remain Popular Conspiracy Theories

Published on June 2nd, 2022 4:46 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

One of the greatest basketball players to ever step on the court:  Patrick Ewing.  The story of the 1985 Draft. Was the 1985 NBA Draft rigged?

The "frozen envelope" or "creased envelope" conspiracy theory continues to be talked about to this day.

What are we talking about? Let's set the scene.


In 1985, the NBA introduced the "lottery process" for the NBA draft, as owners were tired of teams blatantly tanking to secure high picks in the draft. (Donald Sterling and the Los Angeles Clippers were allegedly the biggest culprits).

In order to make things more fair, the NBA introduced a draft lottery in 1985.

The seven teams that didn't make the playoffs in the 1984-85 season were all given an equal chance (14.3%) of securing the #1 overall pick.

These seven teams had their names entered into envelopes, and commissioner David Stern would pick out the envelopes.


The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 4-2 to win the 1984-85 NBA Championship.

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls won Rookie of the Year, and the league was enjoying a rivalry of epic proportions.

The problem? The New York Knicks, one of the NBA's biggest market teams, were terrible.

In 1984-85, the team finished 24-58, and were one of the worst teams in the league.

The league was also in bad shape at the time. Attendance was dropping and the league was reportedly close to getting rid of more than 25% of its teams.

In addition, the league's TV deal was close to expiring, and they needed a shot in the arm.

Sending Ewing to the Los Angeles Clippers? Maybe that wouldn't be best for the league.


Patrick Ewing was the consensus #1 pick heading into the 1985 NBA Draft, and why not? He had almost single-handedly led Georgetown to a NCAA Championship in the 1983-84 season, and he won the Naismith Player of the Year award and Associated Press Player of the Year award in 1984-85.

Ewing was considered a generational prospect.

At the time, some NBA executives reportedly "joked" that the draft lottery process would be rigged, and that Ewing would certainly end up in New York, for the good of the league.


Conspiracy theorists believe one of two things in regards to the 1985 draft lottery:

1) The New York Knicks envelope was frozen, which allowed David Stern to easily identify it and fish it out of the pile last

2) The New York Knicks envelope was folded on one of its corners, which allowed David Stern to identify it and fish it out of the pile last

Was the accounting firm, Ernst & Young, in on it? Some conspiracy theorists believe that the representative from the firm that tossed the envelopes into the clear plastic drum may have banged the New York Knicks envelope into the drum before tossing it in, creating a fold on one of the corners.

Did the NBA freeze the New York Knicks envelope before the draw, allowing the commissioner to know not to pull it out ahead of the other envelopes?


This is one of the two big NBA conspiracy theories that people continue to talk about to this day (the Michael Jordan "secret suspension" is the other).

Is any of this true? We'll likely never know.

Patrick Ewing, of course, ended up in New York, and is considered one of the greatest players of all time.

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