Tim Donaghy, the former NBA referee who just finished a 15-month sentence for his involvement in fixing games, spent his time in prison quite productively. Donaghy used his months in the joint to pen a book revealing the nefarious underbelly of the NBA.
Forget for a minute that this is analogous to an arrested Catholic priest writing an expose on the dirty secrets of the church—because some of the allegations made by Donaghy ring true to NBA fans. These fans, however, should consider the logic of the allegations before making a judgment.
One allegation Donaghy put forward was that referees would informally gamble on games by targeting troublemakers like Stephen Jackson or Rasheed Wallace. In this case, one way that refs would make the games more interesting for themselves would be to bet on who could be the first to hand out a technical to a perceived troublemaker.
As a recently converted fan of the out-of-control, highly entertaining Warriors offense following the team’s amazing playoff run a couple of years ago, I can attest that I’ve often felt that the referees have it in for my favorite group of ragtag athletes. It always seemed that Golden State was getting the short end of the stick from the officials, and now I know why.
It was a blatant ploy by the refs and the NBA to keep Golden State from achieving their destiny of becoming World Champions!!! Clearly, this is just part of David Stern’s master plan to keep only storied NBA franchises like the Lakers, Spurs, and Celtics in the championship.
But seriously, this is a major allegation, and other alleged gambling by referees seems to explain some anomalous occurrences during the NBA’s regular season. For instance, a bet on who would be the first to call a foul purportedly led to games in which no whistles were blown for the first three or four minutes of a game—eons in NBA time.
Another of Donaghy’s allegations cuts to the heart of any fan of the Sacramento Kings. Donaghy claims that the NBA’s power structure chose certain referees and instructed them to make sure that a seventh game would occur in the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers won Game 6 and went on to win the series, thanks to a fourth quarter that had 18 more foul shots awarded to the Lakers than the Kings. That Kings team was probably the best group of players in the past decade not to make the Finals, and the fact that referee manipulation may have played a role in this failure must infuriate Sacramento fans.Kings fans may take solace in a belief that the game was rigged against their team, but a careful consideration of Donaghy’s allegations proves them nearly impossible to believe.
He argues that the Kings-Lakers decision was made to increase the NBA’s revenue by insuring one more game in what was the best rivalry in the NBA at the time. However, when you consider that the NBA rakes in billions of dollars annually, it is difficult to believe that David Stern would commit fraud—a federal crime—to bolster the NBA’s bottom line by a few million dollars. Maybe in today’s economic climate with half the teams failing to turning a profit, but 2002 was booming in comparison.
While it is always fun to believe in conspiracy theories, particularly surrounding something as cosmically unimportant as the NBA, Tim Donaghy’s allegations are nevertheless difficult to believe, especially considering the source. We’re talking about someone who decided that it would be a good idea to gamble on games that he was officiating to make some money.
What’s worse, Donaghy somehow got into trouble with his bookie, even though he should have certainly won these bets, owing to his almost complete control of the outcome.Clearly this guy is not the brightest bulb in the light bulb warehouse.
Donaghy probably thought that a book filled with sensational allegations against his former employers would be a great way to make some money so he could start gambling again. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to consider the possible legal implications (seems to be a habit) of printing lies about an organization like the NBA, because Random House refused to publish his book.