18 Mayo 2017 15:30
Truth or fiction?
The NBA playoffs are providing great entertainment this season. The Warriors came back from a 25-point deficit to beat the San Antonio Spurs in the first game of the Western Conference Finals series, and the Cavaliers will face the Celtics in the East finals after the team from Boston beat the Washington Wizards 4-3 in the semi finals.
Both the Cavaliers and the Warriors are unbeaten this season, and the way things stand it looks like they'll be disputing the NBA championship for the third year in a row.
But what if all this is the result of a pre-established script? What if the referees, owners and league are all in on the charade? What if it's all being done for the ratings?
These are the kinds of questions you'll find creeping into your mind when you watch videos by Mike Korzemba, a twenty-something YouTuber who specialises in NBA conspiracy theories.
His most famous video, about the world's greatest basketball player, it titled 'Was Michael Jordan's Retirement A Secret Suspension by David Stern?'
In the video, Korzemba (who has around 800 thousand subscribers) lays out a relatively convincing case for a theory that has long obsessed NBA fans: Michael Jordan retired from the NBA in 1993 – at the height of his career – to become a baseball player because David Stern, NBA Commissioner at that time, suspended him to protect the league from Jordan's gambling addiction. The video uses period footage, cheesy music and a melodramatic commentary by Korzemba.
It may seem far-fetched, but there are some details that give credence to the theory, in particular Jordan's enigmatic remark at the press conference that he would return to basketball 'if David Stern lets me back in the league.'
But this is not the only theory Korzemba has about Jordan.
The YouTuber also brings his considerable analytical talents to bear on Michael Johnson's so-called 'flu game', the fifth game of the 1997 NBA finals between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, which Jordan played with 39º fever. It was the third game in Utah and the series was tied (2-2). The Bulls ended up winning the game by 38 points, with 5 assists and 7 rebounds courtesy of MJ.
An impressive feat for a man with the flu. But was Jordan really ill as claimed? Or had he been out partying the night before the game as some, like former player Jaylen Brown and former Dallas Mavericks manager have suggested?
Another video takes a closer look at the moment David Stern chose the envelope that determined which team would pick first in the 1985 draft and therefore earn the right to sign Pat Ewing.
The footage shows a giant rotating ball filled with envelopes and a suspiciously convoluted envelope grab by Stern – 'Isn’t it kind of weird that the envelope he chose is noticeably bent at one of its corners?' asks the YouTuber.
As well as the conspiracies, Korzemba explores counterfactual histories using the life-like graphics of the NBA 2K videogame series to create what-if scenarios, such as 'What if Stephen Curry Was Drafted by the Knicks?'
In one of his simulated games, Korzemba explores the juicy hypothetical question 'What If the 1992 Dream Team Played the 2008 Redeem Team?' According to the gameplay algorithms used, the Dream Team would beat Kobe, LeBron, Carmelo and company by 114 points to 110, with an outstanding performance by Michael Jordan. It's fun to think about, but obviously impossible to ever verify. Even for someone as inventive as Korzemba.
But who knows, Korzemba be onto something with his out-there theories. Nobody has stepped up to deny them so far…