NBA Playoffs 2012: How Referees Are Fixing and Changing the Outcome of Games

Steven BaldassariContributor IIIMarch 14, 2011

Tom Donaghy
Tom Donaghy

There is no doubt that NBA referees have fixed games in the past. If you question this, or think it is a conspiracy, then look here, where you'll find information on the 13 NBA Referees caught in a betting scandal in 2008

Former NBA referee Tom Donaghy received a 15-month prison term in connection with a gambling scandal that tarnished professional basketball.

A federal judge also sentenced the disgraced referee to three years of probation. Donaghy pleaded guilty to two felony charges of conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information on interstate commerce.

The betting scandal damaged the NBA's credibility, which had already faced allegations that playoff games were fixed to extend the length of rounds and ensure that large market teams advanced.

The NBA strongly denied this accusation. What else would you expect them to do, guilty or innocent?

Donaghy provided inside information to illegal gamblers and mobsters about the condition of certain players and the tendencies of referees who were officiating games. Is it so far-fetched to think that some of those referees had those tendencies for that very reason, or altered them to fit the needs of their betting games?

You would think this discovery would prompt the NBA to be more attentive to their referees' activities and the calls they're making. Instead, the National Basketball Association and Commissioner David Stern decided that it was best to implement a new rule in 2010 that prevents players from arguing calls at all.

In September, the league announced it was expanding its "respect for the game" guidelines to include unsportsmanlike actions that it feels take away from the product on the floorand how it looks on television.

Guidelines for issuing technical fouls now include gestures such as raising a fist in the air in anger, incredulous arm waving and excessive questioning of the call, even in moderate tones.

"It's an emotional game, no matter what," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "You're going to react if you don't agree with a call. You just can't keep yourself cool all the time. It'll be tough. It'll be an adjustment. I don't know if there's much we can do about it. If you complain, you might get fined even more."

The NBA Players Association said it is planning to challenge this rule, because the league's decision to hand out more technical fouls to complaining players is an "overreaction."

Billy Hunter, executive director of the union, said the players weren't consulted about the rule changes.

Giving this authority to already suspect NBA referees gives them the ability and opportunity to further change the outcome of a game. They could essentially fix a game how they see fit. Or, if they have a grudge against a player, change the outcome of a game by ejecting that player. It doesn't matter if they have a valid argument. It doesn't matter that a referee could be tooling with the game for their own benefit...at least, not to the NBA.

If that does not make much sense to you, do not feel alone, because it does not make any sense to me. This is just one way that officials can fix a game or games.

Another way is by deciding to not call a foul, or slew of fouls, that occur during a given game. In addition, they could choose to call fouls that never even occurred.

By doing any of these things, they can manipulate the score to be within a range of their selection. It is the oldest trick in the book and, quite frankly, I'm getting sick of seeing it occur and so are the players.

Here is an example of how frustrating this can be on a player. Take Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics, for example. He often causes defenders to jump in the air with a shot (pump) fake. Upon doing so, he makes a very veteran, experienced move. You see, Pierce realizes that once that defender has launched himself into the air that he can now jump into the defender while taking his shot. 

"The Truth" could either make the shot, and he would have a chance to shoot an "and one" free throw or, if he misses, then he would be able to take multiple free throws. 

The amount of free throws that he would be allowed to take if he missed that shot would simply depend on whether he was shooting a two-point or three-point field goal. This could happen at any time during the game, but worst case scenario, it could happen at a crucial point in the game.

This is a great basketball play. This is a move that Paul Pierce is especially known to utilize to his advantage, and rightfully so.

If this was, say, a last second shot and a referee does not call the foul, then the outcome of the game could easily be rigged.

This is just one example of countless scenarios the referees could use to influence the outcome of games. Yes, this is going to happen from time to time regardless. However, that doesn't mean we should allow it to happen when the referees are doing it purposely.

ESPN prematurely headlines a Celtics defeat in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals
ESPN prematurely headlines a Celtics defeat in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals

Furthermore, it doesn't indicate that a supplemental rule should be implemented which gives the very referees we have been discussing more power to alter a basketball game.

It would be one thing if only the hot heads of the NBA were arguing the calls, but we are seeing the most respected, knowledgeable players and coaches in the game today—and of the past—berating the referees because they can't understand how they could call or not call certain fouls.

Some of the players that have been fined, ejected from games or served up technical fouls for arguing calls include Boston Celtics' coach Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Lakers' coach Phil Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal, Stephen Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, Lebron James, and Pau Gasol—and the list goes on.

The NBA has gone as far as to order the silence of these players and coaches, which frankly, violates their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and the right to protest. It's completely out of line on the part of the NBA.

Miami Heat's James fears the way the referees implement the new rules could serve to rob the emotional edge from the game.

"We are emotional players," James said. "I mean, just imagine if it's game seven of the finals and you feel like there was a call missed or something you felt should have been called, and you show emotion.

"And you're at a point where you already have a technical foul, and now you get kicked out of game seven of the finals because of this rule. It wouldn't be great."

This corruption needs to be cleaned up.

For those referees out there reading this that aren't fixing games, congratulations. You are amongst the few and far between. This issue is not limited to just the NBA, either. I may even go as far as saying that the NBA, MLB, NCAA, NFL, NHL and other major sports leagues are aware of these occurrences.

I think they are in cahoots with Las Vegas and these mobsters to fix games as they see fit.

This type of corruption has gone on long enough and needs to be addressed. It is unfair to the players and fans, and it gives Vegas an unfair advantage pertaining to gambling on NBA games. Yes, a lot of people do bet on games, but Vegas has no right to fix these games to their benefit.


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