June 11, 2008

Crooked ref claims NBA fixes games: Tim Donaghy, ex-ref convicted of betting on games, claims referees pressured to call fouls by league and sometimes do so on their own. NBA denies it.

posted by graymatters to basketball at 01:08 PM - 48 comments

I know it's easy to kill the messenger in this case (just like steroids in baseball could not be true since it was Conseco making the claim). But why of all the major professional sports leagues is it easiest for me to believe that this could happen with the NBA?

posted by graymatters at 01:10 PM on June 11, 2008

But why of all the major professional sports leagues is it easiest for me to believe that this could happen with the NBA? Because the dude was dirty. Scandalous. And NBA officiating leaves a bit to be desired.

posted by THX-1138 at 01:52 PM on June 11, 2008

There are several reasons... First Basketball=Big Business and Big Money. Just like any business there's no money being made when they're closed so stretching out that "Once a Year MEGA SALE" just makes sense. Second, how easy is it to get away with it? Refs blow the whistle when a player "grazes" an elbow it's a foul. a WEAK foul, but a foul none the less. There's no instant replay (not really anyway), and the action is quick and when most fouls happen it's hard to see. Frustrate a guy with a bunch of bad calls watch his game disintegrate. And lastly WE WANT IT!!! Seriously, when's the last time you really HOPED for a sweep in the finals or World Series or whatever. Oh I know when its OUR team sure, get in and get out, but for the rest of the world let's say just sports fans in general, we want it to last and last, right down to the nail biting hail mary or the half court shot that goes in right at the buzzer. If I'm watching an NBA game and the score is, say, 90 to 30 in the second quarter, I better have a game controller in my hand or I'm turning the channel. We all saw the night and day calling from game 2 to game 3. If there is no "corruption" then let them play and let's see who wins.

posted by emancipated107 at 02:06 PM on June 11, 2008

Cheating in basketball? About as unlikely as a 38-1 longshot winning while the favorite comes in dead last.

posted by irunfromclones at 02:43 PM on June 11, 2008

I don't think it is outright corruption within the officiating ranks. I think it more is based on the "styles" and personalities of the crews that are chosen for the game. Basketball officials have individual tendencies just as much as home plate umpires have different strike zones. The league can dictate which crews officiate the games that matter in order to skew the results towards their desired outcome. It is not a science but it can strech a sweep into a 5-6-7 game series. Being a Detroit fan I feel this is how they won their last championship in 04. They were completely overmatched by the Lakers but the league wanted to strech the series. It just happened that in the end the Pistons showed up big and the Lakers faultered.

posted by Hannibal at 02:52 PM on June 11, 2008

I want some evidence... If Donahey knew, and he wasn't involved in the game, there are others who know/knew (if it happened). In the Kings v. Lakers game that he was referring to, the Lakers shot 40 free throws while the Kings shot 25. Not even close to the discrepency of game 2 of this years finals in which the Celtics shot 38 and the Lakers shot 10. Does this automatically mean that the league fixed that game?

posted by docshredder at 03:17 PM on June 11, 2008

The NBA deserves to get heat from this. NBA refs have a huge influence on the outcome of the game, yet the NBA comes down hard on any criticism of the refs and refuses to be transparent about the training and evaluating of refs.

posted by bperk at 03:32 PM on June 11, 2008

I have always felt that the NBA was just one step above All Star Wrestling in how the games were officiated. TV games always seem to be kept fairly close...don't want viewers like emancipated107 to click away. Get to the playoffs, and the big market, marquee players get all all the calls. While they may never come clean on it, I totally buy into the conspiracy theory that the games were fixed.

posted by dviking at 04:16 PM on June 11, 2008

Good point irunfromclondes. I'd like to know if the jock on Big Brown had a prop bet in Vegas for his horse to finish last, especially in light of the fact that they found nothing wrong with the horse.

posted by Shotput at 04:20 PM on June 11, 2008

Regardless of fixed games, (which is not surprising) - I think the officiating is absolutely atrocious in NBA games, to the point where I think it is ruining a beautiful, exciting game. The disparate differences in how games are called is ridiculous, but how games often have no action - just a constant stopping-and-starting.

posted by gnutron at 04:28 PM on June 11, 2008

I, for one, don't believe that this could be true, but then again, it is almost too plausible not to be. I've always been suspicious of the Sunday night and Monday night games in the NFL. Way too many of them were much closer than they should have been. Likewise, MLB pennant races have often seen one team with a large lead find that lead shrinking as the post-season draws near. Why not the NBA trying to accommodate the TV networks? Timing is everything if you are to influence the outcome of a game. It is not necessary to call a disproportianate number of fouls against one team. Merely call a couple of quick "ticky-tacky" calls against a star on one team early in the first quarter. Said star then spends some quality time on the pine, thus interfering with his team's ability to play well. Having one team reach the limit early in a period results in the other team parading to the line, and the difference in calls is then made up late in the period. In baseball, an umpire can squeeze a pitcher, or conversely open up the zone, on selective pitches. The 1 - 1 or 2 - 1 counts are particularly important. Think of the difference between 1 - 2 and 2 - 1 or 3 - 1 and 2 - 2. One pitch can change a whole at bat, and possibly an entire inning. Football is also easy to influence without being obvious. Take the offensive holding penalty. You can call the same number against each team, but the penalties will have a big effect against one team and not the other. Think of the difference on a holding call on a 12-yard completion on 2nd and 8 vs the same call on an incompletion on 2nd and 15. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but sometimes I really have to wonder. On edit, anything that results in the various leagues making the officiating more consistent will be welcome. If it takes a scandal, we'll be angry, but the outcome might be beneficial in the long run.

posted by Howard_T at 04:33 PM on June 11, 2008

Here's what the L.A. Times has to say on the matter. I was in L.A. at the time and remember that game 6 vividly. Here's the ESPN recap. This was Shaq at the height of his powers. And every time he got the ball down low, there was major contact between him and his defender. If a ref wanted to, they could call a foul every single time he got the ball. either on Shaq or his defender(s). Phil had been working the refs all series and I assumed that the resulting disparity in fouls was the Zen master working the refs. Plus the Lakers were at home. And it sure seems like the home team gets more calls.

posted by cjets at 06:02 PM on June 11, 2008

I have a question... Do Basketball refs have other jobs like Football Refs do? I don't think they do. Baseball Umpires only umpire. AS many bad calls as there is in Football, I think it is still heads above the others in accuracy. The strike zone is completely non existent, and the rules in Basketball are a joke. I always thought fouls are called to keep the game from getting out of hand. How often do you hear during any sport playoff or finals that the Refs are "letting them play".

posted by scuubie at 07:38 PM on June 11, 2008

I understand how that many want more concrete evidence, and even though the source has made some poor choices (although the idea that once you lie in one area of life your credibility is shot in every area of life forever is so absurd to me i don't know how most believe it), why is it that when polled, the vast majority of sports watchers said that the nba had the most "suspicious" officiating of any pro league? It seems like there is a basic intuition that nearly everyone has about this, and it makes me think that at the very least Stern needs to do better than using red herring attacks in response to these new allegations (ie referring to him as a felon and a criminal repeatedly in his latest response).

posted by brainofdtrain at 08:16 PM on June 11, 2008

Cheating in basketball? Next thing I read will be that wrestling is not real!!!! What will be next. Gee, I wonder is the World Series of Poker is on the level or do the favorites get cards dealt off the bottom of the deck?

posted by RAZORDODGER at 09:34 PM on June 11, 2008

Well at least we know that the refs didn't keep Patrick Ewing from getting a ring when he was on the verge of closing the deal. Hard to blame a Game 7 Finals loss on the refs with Starks clanging treys like a Frisco cable car driver. My favorite line about hoops officiating remains, to this day, the one uttered in the late 1980's by then Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs. At a home game, the refs were calling a horrible game and the Sooner fans started pelting the court with trash in protest. Coach Tubbs was either asked or felt compelled to grab a courtside mike to stop the trash tossing so the Sooners wouldn't get hit with a forfeit. He hollered over the PA system: "No matter how bad the officiating might be, you have no right to throw trash on the court."

posted by beaverboard at 09:53 PM on June 11, 2008

Basketball is by far the hardest sport to officiate. There are so many things going on at once. There are only 3 refs and 10 players. How can 3 people watch the actions of 10 people and not miss ANYTHING? Plus why is everyone coming down so hard on the refs if it was the league that orchestrated the whole thing?

posted by docshredder at 10:44 PM on June 11, 2008

Apparently there is some evidence. An interesting read: A professional gambler's take on the scandal.

posted by brainofdtrain at 10:47 PM on June 11, 2008

In that Kings game, Scot Pollard fouled out. His comments on this "My first thought [upon hearing Donaghy's allegation] was: I knew it," Pollard said Tuesday night. "I'm not going to say there was a conspiracy. I just think something wasn't right. It was unfair. We didn't have a chance to win that game." On Wednesday, Pollard dismissed the idea of a conspiracy among referees because it's too big a secret to keep for this long. And he portrayed Donaghy as a criminal willing to say anything to save himself. Can someone explain to me how he can say "I knew it" and "It was unfair" and "we didn't have a chance to win that game", yet still dismiss that it was a conspiracy? Did he think they cheated them not out of conspiracy, but just for sh*ts and giggles?

posted by bdaddy at 08:19 AM on June 12, 2008

If I'm watching an NBA game and the score is, say, 90 to 30 in the second quarter, I better have a game controller in my hand or I'm turning the channel. Which system? XBox 360 or PS3? Please don't say the Nintendo Wii or I'll turning the channel.

posted by BornIcon at 08:35 AM on June 12, 2008

Scott Pollard is one of the goofiest players ever to take the court. He is lucky he made it out of the first half in any of the games he had to guard Shaq. Every time Shaq went up for his 1/2 hook Pollard put his hand straight up, and then proceeded to move his body underneath Shaq, which is a foul. Last night on sportscenter they showed some highlights/lowlights (you choose) of that game and every play that they showed had contact in them. If you even touch someone while they are shooting it is a foul, period. If you touch someone while they are dribbling, it's a foul. The NBA screwed up with the no handchecking rule...It makes the game impossible to officiate because you could literally call a foul on every single posession. As a basketball fan I really hope that this story is not true. If some more evidence comes out to back Donaghy I may have to give up on the NBA...

posted by docshredder at 08:40 AM on June 12, 2008

Can someone explain to me how he can say "I knew it" and "It was unfair" and "we didn't have a chance to win that game", yet still dismiss that it was a conspiracy? When did he say the two statements? It's possible that he said the former in he heat of the moment without thinking. The later coming after the NBA gave him a hint hint, wink wink to shut his trap.

posted by jmd82 at 08:43 AM on June 12, 2008

Speaking as an NBA-ignorant person who watches maybe five games a year, even if Donaghy can give credible evidence of collusion (and consider the source), that's a separate problem than bad calls made due to either a)incompetence or b)a ref's conscious or unconscious bias. Obviously you'd want to root out any collusion, but if the ultimate goal is better officiating, you have to deal with all three problems separately.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:08 AM on June 12, 2008

As a fan, frustrated yet seeking real justice, I would like to propose a three-step solution to the matter regarding Tim Donaghy's claims. Step one. Take the Sacramento vs. Los Angeles Game Six of 2002 video-tape and have the three refs of the game sit down at a table, in an open (C-Span style) press conference. Each referee will have a monitor in front of them replaying the game- while on the sides of the room large monitors will play the same video for the press. Step two. Everyone watches while the refs give their shpeel, defending every call or non-call throughout the game. *Important - The press can not interfere or ask questions until after the game. Step three - Open it up to press discussion - while a moderator controls the video to aid review of any area in question. In other words, if David Stern wants to stand by the outrageous officiating of game 6 in 2002, then let him stand by it, and send his boys in there to do the same. I do not agree with Marcos Brenton's (SACBEE 6/12/08) assertion that complaining should be immediately recognized as "whining," and I do not fear the labels of conspiracy theorist or whiner. Because it is not the whiner who is propelled to positive action, and who demands justice. It is precisely the whiner who does nothing, demands nothing and is as easily forgotten as he/she is dismissed. NBA fans who truly love this game, should therefore demand justice and restitution in this regard. As fans, while our very love and loyalty wavers, should we expect no less? The NBA should be thankful to have such fans! And finally, to make my point. Let us look to last year's Superbowl in the NFL. Nationwide sports fans witnessed the triumph of an underdog, and more importantly saw fruition in a team who knew how to dream and believe. When this championship occurred, while many in Boston were dismayed, many more nationwide were enlivened and engaged. It was (to coin an oxymoron) a very real, magical event. This is what is at stake, to know that a similar dream in Sacramento, was tarnished by the greed and self-motivated interests of a higher authority is simply unsportsmanlike and unAmerican! We as sports fans, as dreamers and believers, should demand no less. Let's get it done. Sincerely, Justin P. Nash

posted by megaronin at 11:33 AM on June 12, 2008

Time to apply the ET test. This is where you explain something to an extraterrestrial and try to illustrate why it's important. Me: "Well, this is a game where people throw a bag of air through a hoop. The men in the striped shirts have to make sure the rules are followed. They sometimes aren't very good at it and we want to know why." ET: "Is this game part of a religious ceremony?" Me: "No" ET: "Do you kill and eat the losers?" Me: "No" ET: "Do governments fall or is anyone forced into slavery as a result of the outcome of the game?" Me: "No" ET: "So it's just a bunch of people throwing a bag of air through a hoop and you're worried that someone might not be making them follow the rules for throwing a bag of air through a hoop?" Me: "Some people get really upset about it." ET: "Please leave this planet. We need the space for useful things."

posted by joaquim at 12:32 PM on June 12, 2008

Did you know that this is a website where people discuss current events in the world of sports?

posted by bender at 01:07 PM on June 12, 2008

So you think a current event couldn't possibly be that people are taking entertainment way too seriously?

posted by joaquim at 02:51 PM on June 12, 2008

joaquim, I'm a little confused by your post. How do you think the dialog should go on this particular thread? I sort of look at this myself as the possibility that there could be cheating at the officiating level in the NBA. Not exactly small taters. I don't think anyone has commented irrationally or has acted like there is a bee in their dress. And why in the name of God are aliens talking to you?

posted by THX-1138 at 03:40 PM on June 12, 2008

I remember my father a professional gambler winning sports bets while justifying his betting selections by saying stuff like the league wants a seventh game or too much money at stake for this or that to happen, or its not good for business for certain team to win by too many points. He use to say there was too much money at stake gambling to trust that it wouldn't influence if not to total outcome, at least the margins of victory. Well I used to think he was just doing the conspiracy theory thing a lot regardless of how many times he was right. Now I wish my father were still alive to see that he has been proven right and yes in horse racing, boxing, basketball, football and baseball his theories about cheating, and money being the real motivation for most of what happens were correct.

posted by Atheist at 05:48 PM on June 12, 2008

THX, my point is that it IS exactly small taters. It's entertainment. I can choose to watch or not. No matter who wins this series, I'll still have my job and I'll still be worried about why my dog's limping. Where did I accuse anyone of commenting irrationally? You and bender seem to be perplexed that I'm not sufficiently concerned about this matter and want my comments to follow a certain style in order to match a preconceived formula for thread dialog. Others posted their suggestions (turn the channel, give up the NBA entirely, convene an inquisition) for resolving the issue; I suggested that maybe we not take it so seriously. If my suggestion upsets you, I don't have any problem with the admins deleting my comments. Your call.

posted by joaquim at 05:51 PM on June 12, 2008

joaquim, while the current betting issues in the NBA might not rise to the importance of the state of the economy, or the war in Iraq, keep in kind that sports are a very important part of life throughout the world. Beyond the pure entertainment value, sports comprise a significant financial empire. Cheating in professional sports goes beyond worrying about the ethics/behavior of a Hollywood starlet. Lindsey Lohan getting drunk causes a stir for a day, then we can all move on. A ref getting caught fixing games IS a big deal, as it changes the outcome of what was supposed to be a fair contest. Betting, future games, etc. are all influenced. That's the difference between entertainment and sports. As to your limping dog, are you still beating it?

posted by dviking at 10:16 PM on June 12, 2008

Since you asked, dviking, when I got home tonight I learned that they had to put the dog to sleep. That's neither here not there for you, I know. You have to attend to the serious stuff like games. (Tell me, is it the FBI or the CIA that forces people to bet on these games?) Next time you go to a game, don't forget to throw a beer at that 7-year-old girl rooting for the other team because this is Serious Business and you're just the bestest fan in the whole wide world, aren't you?

posted by joaquim at 11:21 PM on June 12, 2008

hmmm.... it seems that NEARLY every single fan has more insighnt than the NBA, the referee's union, and the comissioner.. Thank you all for making clear the muddling b^**sh)$ that as been awakened by Tim D.'s accusation. I am so thankful that so many uninformed sources have the enlightentment to wage judgement without facts, dates, proof, and real judicial data to wage decisions. How can I ever thank you? Your closed minded adjuication has been instumential in swaying my opinion...NOT. How was I ever to find out now I was to believe that the facts were supposed to weigh the hearing, instead of your beliefs? Please sign me up for the next "make a decision before the hearing bunch of predisposed jury members" so I join your klan; "yep, I said klan" (not kidding) I find your entire rhetoric pathectic to say the VERY least... so go ahead.....post away to your malcontent.... I neither await or will review your replies becaue in today's society, it is OK to rebuke to combatants without fear of retort... juat see Maury Povic's and others sites. Any answer I would post will only fuel your futile retorts; so bring it on, judjemental A$$ho!@....

posted by knowsalittle at 11:35 PM on June 12, 2008

wow, not sure at all how to respond to knowsalittle. Anyway, to joaquim, sorry to hear about your dog. Truly. As to whether it was the CIA or the FBI that forces me, or others, to bet on the games...I haven't the slightest idea where your question comes from. No one stated that the only value of the NBA was to place bets on the outcomes of games. I personally don't go to many NBA games, however I go to quite a few professional sports games each year. If I know that the games are being fixed by any of the participants, I would stop going. As to throwing a beer at a 7 year old girl, again, not sure where that comes from. I cherish any beer that I paid $8.00 for, and I would never waste it on a 7 year old.

posted by dviking at 12:26 AM on June 13, 2008

THX, my point is that it IS exactly small taters. It's entertainment. I can choose to watch or not. No matter who wins this series, I'll still have my job and I'll still be worried about why my dog's limping. And you've hit on exactly my point. Has there ever been a story discussed on this site that jeopardized your job helped take care of your dog (sorry to hear about that, by the way)? Sports are entertainment. You could write something similar to your extraterrestrial test for practically everything discussed here. They are important to society because of their popularity and because they are a huge business. If the league or refs or anyone is influencing the outcome of games for any reason, that is completely against the spirit of fair competition that the league is supposed to represent. If you're not interested in this story, then that's fine, but considering that this is a site for discussion of interesting sports current events, this is absolutely relevant and worthy of discussion.

posted by bender at 08:21 AM on June 13, 2008

Geez, bender, talking about sports at a time like this. There are kids starving in Africa!

posted by bperk at 08:39 AM on June 13, 2008

Geez, bperk, talking about people at a time like this. We're nearing the heat death of the universe!

posted by yerfatma at 09:53 AM on June 13, 2008

You guys are all judgemental A$$ho!@'s.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2008

Hopefully all of this attention will force the NBA to raise the level of officiating. And it's good to see that many fans out there realize that poor officiating CAN affect the outcome of games. I always cringe when the naysayers use the defense of "it was only one bad call, get over it". Obviously, one bad call in a crucial situation can matter.

posted by whitedog65 at 10:56 AM on June 13, 2008

And I don't know how anybody could be wasting their time posting silly comments on the insignificant internet with the impending alien invasion and all. I hear there's a freeway going through here or something.

posted by THX-1138 at 11:17 AM on June 13, 2008


posted by graymatters at 12:14 PM on June 13, 2008

Please sign me up for the next "make a decision before the hearing bunch of predisposed jury members" so I join your klan; "yep, I said klan" (not kidding) Bishop??? Is that you? Where've you been???

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:30 PM on June 13, 2008

Hopefully all of this attention will force the NBA to raise the level of officiating. Agreed. I've always believed that NBA has the worst officiating of the four major American sports leagues.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 01:23 PM on June 13, 2008

Thanks for all the fish.

posted by THX-1138 at 01:52 PM on June 13, 2008

The big four sports leagues meaning Football, Basketball,Baseball and.....Soccer???

posted by scuubie at 07:38 PM on June 13, 2008

Simply amazing that the game 4 FT totals were 28 for Boston and 29 for LA. Takes the same amount of "control" to end up with an equal total as it does to have a lopsided total. Then again, it could be the conspiracy theorist in me.

posted by dviking at 12:35 PM on June 14, 2008

It what you her all the time. SOMEONE GETS IN TROUBLE AND THEY WANT TO PULL EVERONE THEY CAN DOWN WITH THEM. Thats how it is obvious he is guilty. Now he will try to bring down anyone he can. (I say this even when i dilike David Stern)

posted by benwaz at 10:37 PM on June 28, 2008

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