10. If crooked NBA playoff series were heavyweight boxers, then the 2002 Western finals (Lakers-Kings) was George Foreman and the 2001 Eastern finals (Bucks-Sixers) was Earnie Shavers. Translation: People remember only George, but Earnie was almost as memorable. To briefly recap, Philly's wins in Games 1 and 4 swung on a controversial lane violation and two egregious no-calls. The Sixers finished with advantages of 186-120 in free throws, 12-3 in technicals and 5-0 in flagrant fouls. Glenn Robinson, one of Milwaukee's top-two scorers, didn't even attempt a free throw until Game 5. Bucks coach George Karl and star Ray Allen were fined a combined $85,000 after the series for claiming the NBA rigged it. In that game, Milwaukee's best big man, Scott Williams, was charged with a flagrant foul but not thrown out, only to be suspended, improbably, for Game 7.
The defining game: When Philly stole a must-win Game 4 in Milwaukee despite an atrocious performance from Iverson (10-for-32 shooting), helped by a 2-to-1 free-throw advantage and a host of late calls. How one-sided was it? When an official called a harmless touch foul to send Sam Cassell to the line with two seconds left and the Bucks trailing by seven (maybe the all-time we-need-to-pad-the-free-throw-stats-so-they-don't-seem-so-lopsided-afterward call), the subsequent sarcastic standing ovation nearly morphed into the first-ever sarcastic riot. And this was Milwaukee, the most easygoing city in the country! Nobody remembers this. The real loser was Allen, who exploded for 190 points in the series, including a record nine threepointers in do-or-die Game 6. Nobody remembers this, either. Even I didn't remember it. Crap.
By the way, whenever I whine about this (especially to Philly friends) I am always told that the Bucks wouldn't have stood a chance in the finals anyway. This is simply not true. The Bucks swept the top 4 teams in the Western conference that season including the Lakers. The Bucks were uniquely built to stop Shaq as they could just throw defensively adept (Ervin Johnson), and fouling adept(Joel Przybilla) at Shaq without any tangible effect on their offense. The Lakers didn't have an answer for the Allen/Cassell/Robinson trio defensively (no one did) and the Bucks would have, at the very least, put up a better showing than the Sixers.
The NBA can go fuck itself. I'll probably be mad about this series forever. (By the way, I went to every single playoff home game in 2001.)
*At least until the Tim Donaghy thing. Now I'm just correct.