Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the referee who admitted he ruined the Seahawks-Steelers SB a few years ago. He said he made a few boneheaded calls in the fourth that may have cost the city of Seattle its first Superbowl victory. This came after an MLB umpire admitted that he cost a pitcher a perfect game. These are once-in-a-lifetime moments that were ruined by bad calls. Needless to say, apologies are foreign to me, an NBA enthusiast. An official admitting they made a mistake?
Often times in the NBA, refs will make mistakes. After all, they are only human, right? It’s not the fact that they make mistakes that rubs fans the wrong way, it is their responses to the mistakes they make. The ref is never wrong, even when they are.
Any words of discontent will be met with a technical foul. Any criticism by a head coach will be met by a fine. When you know the names of NBA officials, it is a bad thing for the league. When the people who are supposed to be unbiased are known for “keeping a game close” or “being quick with a whistle” how is that good for the NBA? These refs walk around like they are above the law and that belief is validated by the NBA coddling them at every turn.
It’s time for the refs to admit to some of their mistakes.
One of the most controversial NBA playoff series was the one that occurred between the Kings and Lakers in 2002. In the fourth quarter of a crucial game six, the Lakers attempted 27 free throws to the Kings' nine. Having said that, the Lakers won by only four points. This was the centerpiece of Donaghy’s claims that the NBA officiating was fixed and plenty of people became believers of fixes after this allegation.
Another game that fans won’t forget anytime soon is game five of the 2006 NBA Finals. In that game, Dwyane Wade shot an astounding 21 free throws. He shot more than the entire Dallas Mavericks by himself. A ton of fans will point out that Wade received a ton of “phantom calls” that shifted the momentum of the game. In a one-point victory, to say that this did not make the difference would be crazy. This one will sting Mavs fans if they are unable to capture a championship during Dirk’s career.
During the entirety of the 2008 NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics were allowed to play their brand of smash mouth defense on the finesse Lakers. During nearly every pick, Perkins and Garnett were allowed to hold and push defenders. After Bryant got past defenders, Celtics were allowed to bump and grab Kobe on his way to the basket. James Posey was allowed to foul numerous players after the whistle was blown without any repercussions. The amount of things they were able to get away with was ridiculous.
The following year would bring another example of ref bias in favor of the Celtics. During a hotly contested game between the Garnett-less C’s and the upstart Bulls, Rondo committed a foul on Brad Miller as he made his way to the basket. Despite the fact that Rondo didn’t make a play on the ball, the foul wasn’t declared flagrant. The Bulls would go on to lose the game and the series. Rondo on the subject: “I’m a little guy, so I had to go for the hard foul… I’m not a dirty player”. Stay classy, Boston.
The 2009-10 NBA Finals saw a rematch of the Lakers and Celtics. This series was made ugly by bad calls on both sides of the ball. In addition to being allowed to be a “tough, physical team” they were handed almost all the key possessions. On one critical play, replays showed Garnett clearly tip the ball out-of-bounds yet they still awarded Boston the ball. On another after a Lamar Odom rebound, Rondo reached in and grabbed Lamar’s arm. After the ball went out of bound the ball was awarded to Boston. In game seven, with both teams struggling to score, the Lakers were given 20 more free throws than the Celtics. The free throw disparity was a huge reason this series ended this way.
With all of these miscues, the only recent admission by the NBA in a crucial game was in the Dallas-Denver series. The fact that other sports have officials that come out and admit mistakes makes the NBA look foolish. By not admitting mistakes and fining people for disagreeing with calls the NBA is lending credence to the conspiracy nuts. Why not just come out and admit you made a few mistakes? Until they do, fans and casual viewers will continue to lose respect in the once-great National Basketball Association.