NBA Refereeing is Ruining Basketball, Creating Classism and Unfair Advantages

Rich KurtzmanSenior Analyst IApril 28, 2011

George Karl and many NBA head coaches have had reason to be upset with the NBA officiating as of late.
George Karl and many NBA head coaches have had reason to be upset with the NBA officiating as of late.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The NBA in 2011 finds itself in the midst of a classism battle between the haves and the have-nots.

The “superteams” created of superstars are now running the NBA.

They grab the ratings, they make the money, they put butts in the seats and they make people tune into television broadcasts.

For the NBA, it's good business for the so-called superstars to run the NBA, but things have gotten out of control.

David Stern was an intelligent businessman when he gave Michael Jordan all the power in the early 90s. Stern seemingly told his referees to allow Jordan to travel and to get more calls than any other player in the game.

Stern knew corporations would latch onto Jordan, and Nike and Gatorade did just that.

Everyone wanted to “Be like Mike,” and letting his “superstars” (a term Stern might not have made up but he perfected) play in the Barcelona Olympics, putting on a show of monumental proportions showed off the game of basketball to Europe and the entire world really.

Stern was smart to use Jordan as a tool to grow the game, but he was unintelligent to think that letting multiple players get love from his referees was the way to go.

Nowadays, it's the name on the back of the jersey that dictates what the call will be, it's completely ridiculous on so many levels.

Sports is supposed to be an even landscape, where all men are equal and the referees whole job is to keep the game unbiased.

Referees are hurting the sanctity of the game if they do not call the game evenly—a foul is a foul no matter what the name or number reads on the player's jersey, “superstars” should not be given more love than other players.

To say that one player, a superstar, is given more calls, given the benefit of the doubt by the referees is completely pathetic, it creates a competitive unbalance that makes fans wonder why they should even care.

One only has to look at the disadvantage that Denver had to deal with in Game 5 of their first-round series with the Thunder, in which Oklahoma City and their stars (Durant and Westbrook) enjoyed a 42-21 advantage in free-throw shooting. The superstar-laden Thunder had the benefit of all the calls, the superstar-less Nuggets couldn't get to the free throw line to save their very basketball lives. And they still only lost by three points on the road.

In the game, Durant shot 12 free throws, Westbrook 10, their 22 were more than the Nuggets' 21 combined as a team.

It has created classism in sports, where within the confines of the boundaries, the game is supposed to be on an even playing field for the most sloppy scrub and the most shiny superstar alike.

Of course, it benefits the NBA for the referees to give players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and others more calls than say Chris Andersen or Emeka Okafor—Bryant, James and Durant are the faces of the NBA.

But it also seems simple to realize that if the player's face is one of the select few to be shown during timeouts that represent the NBA, they will also be the ones to get the most calls from the referees.

Why wouldn't the NBA want their stars being allowed to do whatever they want on the court with a reckless abandon, even if it means hurting the integrity of the game?

Kobe Bryant getting love by the refs and hitting free throws to win games is good for the NBA, damn you if your team is devoid of stars.

And damn you if your team doesn't come from one of the coasts.

There's a reason the Lakers and Celtics have won the most championships. There's also a reason why only eight teams have won an NBA championship since 1970.

It's doesn't benefit the league for a place like Denver, Oklahoma City or New Orleans to win a championship. All the money is in LA, Boston, New York, Chicago and the massive markets.

Basically, if you're not from a huge market, your team is behind the eight ball. And if you don't have at least one superstar, check that, two to three superstars, your team has almost no chance of winning big games.

The referees in the NBA are terrible, pathetic—it's the only professional sports league where their refereeing is talked about just as much as the play on the court.

The NBA's refereeing is why so many fans have become jaded, disinterested with the “look at me” isolation product that takes away from the quintessential team game of basketball.

This is where David Stern messed up.

He understood that having a star-driven league was good for ratings, but he didn't look at the ramifications.

The NBA and basketball in general is all about playing together. No one player, check that, not even three “superstars” can beat a complete team of five players.

It's simple to understand, basketball isn't about one star beating five other players, and even though Stern and his helpless drones (referees) want it to be that way, it's ruining the overall NBA product, it's driving fans away in droves and it's creating a $400 million loss this season alone.

Stern has to again be intelligent, realize that this star-driven league is failing. He has to understand that there is a complete competitive disadvantage, an unfair balance that is tilted in favor of the stars and their teams and against the everyday joes—the same people that fork out their hard-earned money to watch these overpaid players of games.

The NBA must get to a point where there is parody, they must move to a place that is similar to the NFL, where every team and every fan believes their team can take home the championship at the beginning of the season, or at least at the beginning of the playoffs.

Until the NBA fixes their fraudulent officiating, until they can assure fans from every market that their team actually has a chance to win a title, until they can create a level playing field while players are on the hardwood the very integrity of the game is in jeopardy and they will continue to suffer the consequences of losing much money and watching their fanbase walk away from the game they love.

Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for, a weekly contributor to and a contributor to writing on the Denver Broncos.


Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.


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