The 8 Biggest Sports Conspiracy Theories

#5 — Ali-Liston II's "Phantom Punch"

The Theory: Sonny Liston took a dive and was "knocked out" by a "phantom punch" from Ali midway through the first round in their 1965 rematch.

Why It Might Be True: There were rumors that Liston had run up major gambling debts to the mafia, so he may have bet against himself in the fight and then lost on purpose to make back what he owed. Also, footage of the Ali jab that floored Liston shows that it barely connected.

Why It Might Be False: It was a punch that barely connected. Yet it connected. And it was thrown by Muhammad Ali. If the average person took a glancing blow from 1965 Muhammad Ali, they would not only be knocked out, they would be decapitated.

#6 – Spygate's Coverup
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The Theory: After the Patriots were busted for filming their opponents' signals and practices, commissioner Roger Goodell destroyed all the Spygate evidence because New England's cheating program was much larger than the public knew.

Why It Might Be True: When the Patriots program was uncovered, Goodell asked the Patriots to turn over all of their illegal tapes and documents — trusting them to do so, despite there being no reason to trust them. Then less than two weeks later, Goodell had all of the evidence destroyed, explaining his reasoning: "It was the right thing to do." That's vague. Maybe it was an attempt to quickly and tidily move past the fact that the winner of three recent Super Bowls had cheated their way to championships.

Why It Might Not Be True: To pull off a legit conspiracy, you have to be pretty smart. Whereas Roger Goodell is an established moron. Destroying the Spygate evidence and continuing to trust the Patriots weren't the actions of a conspirator, they were the actions of someone with a very low I.Q.

#7 – Janet Jones: Gambling Patsy

The Theory: Phoenix Coyotes assistant Rick Tocchet ran a large, nationwide sports gambling ring and Janet Jones, the wife of Wayne Gretzky — who was Phoenix's head coach at the time — was implicated as a major client. But Gretzky was not. Jones took the fall for her husband.

Why It Might Be True: It's hard to believe that Tocchet was running a gambling ring as a side job and taking huge bets from his bosses' wife and that Gretzky knew nothing about any of it. It also makes sense that Jones would take the fall, because her husband's image is more important to their long-term financial well-being.

Why It Might Be False: Wives try to keep things quiet from their husbands all the time. Just ask Cal Ripken's wife (theoretically).

#8 – Game 6 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals

The Theory: With the Sacramento Kings leading the Lakers 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals, David Stern ordered the officiating crew to take every possible measure to ensure that the Lakers won.

Why It Might Be True: The Kings are small market, the Lakers are one of the NBA's premier franchises. The Kings in the Finals would equal low ratings, the Lakers in the Finals would equal big ratings. And as for Game 6 specifically, anyone who saw the game — even Lakers homers — would admit that the officiating down the stretch was incredibly biased in favor of the Lakers. Additionally, former NBA official Tim Donaghy has claimed that he was told by an official who worked Game 6 that it was rigged.

Why It Might Be False: Umm … uhh … hmm. Tough one. You know, in all fairness to David Stern and the NBA, this doesn't even belong in a list of conspiracy theories. Because it's not just some "theory." It's definitely true.

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Thanks to SportsPickle Facebook fans for help compiling the list.


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