The 1980s were a very shady time for the NBA.
Drugs ran rampant through the league. There were no major stars and TV was airing the Finals on tape delay. It was tough to watch games unless you really wanted to. If it were not for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird captivating the world, an influx of talent coming in the late 1980s and a crackdown on fighting and drugs that came from commissioners Larry O'Brien and David Stern, the league would not be where it is today.
Not even close.
The image problem everyone believed the NBA had in the mid-2000s was actually nothing compared to the absolute ghastly play and controversy that surrounded the league at the time. And like the 2000s, the NBA had its run in with the shady world of sports gambling and point shaving. And to prove my point, the 1980s scandal proved to be equally serious, if not more serious.
According to Brian Tuohy's book, Larceny Games: Sports Gambling, Game Fixing and the FBI, detailing several years of FBI investigations in to sports gambling rings, FBI documents revealed the federal agency investigated several members of the New York Knicks during the 1980s.
Worse yet, or maybe even a little more worrisome, the players who tipped off the gambler did it without taking a cut or fee. They did it for free or as a "courtesy" to the drug dealers and gamblers who were in on the point-shaving scheme. Members of the 1981-82 Knicks allegedly bet against themselves at points during their 33-49 season (which came after a 50-win season in 1981).
Here is an excerpt from the book:
Source stated that to his knowledge, none of the players receive any money for the tip, but simply do it as a courtesy to their dealer. One such tip was the Knicks-Bullets game in New York about two (2) weeks ago. Another game was the Knicks versus San Antonio last Tuesday, which was good. The type of tips are not regarding point shaving but rather key players not playing. The latest tip was on the Knicks game on March 23, 1982 which was the only one that did not work out.
When you think of the Knicks of the 1980s there is not a whole lot to think about. The early part of the decade was spent going in and out of the Playoffs. Then the team nose-dived in the middle of the decade before striking rich on Patrick Ewing in the NBA Draft Lottery in 1985.
Then came Michael Ray Richardson's banishment from the NBA for cocaine use. It was a slow buildup to get to the glory days of the early 1990s. The 1980s were largely a low point in Knicks history.
This would make it the lowest point if it turns out to be true.