NBA And Corruption

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: June 14, 2008

NORTH CAROLINA — Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy claims NBA league officials directed referees to give favorable calls to certain teams and certain players in order to produce the best finals for the purpose of ratings and revenue.

David Stern reluctantly has had to answer questions about the “golden league”, its referees and the league office. To complicate matters, two former NBA referees told ESPN on Thursday that federal investigators had questioned them about referee Dick Bavetta while conducting their probe into Tim Donaghy.

Former referee Hue Hollins said Thursday on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” that federal investigators “questioned me about Dick Bavetta more than they did about Tim Donaghy.”

So it seems Donaghy is the least of the NBA “guru’s” problems at this point because this seems to be only the tip of the proverbial “iceberg”. I must admit, when I heard the story for the first time, it made me think back to NBA games from the past, not the years in question but years prior superstars like Duncan, Shaq-daddy, Kobe and even Jordan.

I’m talking about the epic battles between the Celtics and Lakers, Celtics and Sixers and Pistons and Celtics of the 80’s and early 90’s.

Remember the questionable calls in the 1984 series when the Celtics played the Lakers. You know the phantom fouls called against the Lakers, especially there “big men”?

Or the series the Lakers and Sixers played where Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins allegedly committed time and time again when guarding Kareem? The Eastern conference finals when Isiah Thomas threw the basketball in under his own basket only to have it stolen which led to the winning basket late in the game.

Everyone forgets the Pistons had a lead in the fourth quarter when shady calls were going in Boston’s favor making the game closer than it should have been. And what about Larry Bird? Has there ever been a more protected player both on and off the court?

I always said that Bird was a good player made great by the league and the media. He was the “great white hope”. The one white player who could shoot well enough to play in the league and play with the “brothas” but he wasn’t great. He plays with a “force field” around him and when opponents penetrated that force field, they were charged with a foul.

He could show off his “five inch vertical” on the back of an opponent and that opponent would be charged with a foul. He could stand under the basket and the opponent would slightly run into him and they would call a charge but when the opponent was in the perfect position to take a charge according to the interpretation of league rules, the opponent would be charged with a foul.

This would happen time and time again. Off the court, was anyone in the media outraged when Bird said “Moses Malone can eat s**t” after the 1981 NBA Finals parade in Boston when the Celtics won the championship? Or when Bird provoked a fight with the classy Hall of fame player Doctor J in a heated playoff series?

To this day, no one questioned Bird’s moral judgment when he denied fathering a child for years? And you can’t tell me Isiah Thomas will forever be vilified in the media and by fans because he said Bird is considered great because he’s white after another frustrating and controversial series lost to the Celtics.

These examples make me reminisce about the “not so good ol’ days” of a league that grew in popularity for most but not for me. Instead of the league catering to fairness and fundamental basketball, they opted for ratings, corporate sponsors and global awareness and popularity.

I now compare the NBA to the WWE. Great ratings, corporate sponsors, global awareness and popularity but more important, they are both controlled by their perspective league offices.

Was I surprised to hear about the story of corruption in the NBA?

No. I just wonder what took so long for it to surface.