Ex-NBA official, Tim Donaghy says they are. The question is, do we believe him? Or is he merely making noise in hopes of getting a lighter prison sentence on July 14th, when he is scheduled to be sentenced?
Donaghy is the NBA referee that was arrested last summer by the FBI for gambling and conspiring with gamblers on NBA games. He was fired by the NBA, he subsequently pleaded guilty to lesser charges and he has been cooperating with the government in order to obtain a lighter sentence.
According to a just released letter from his attorney to the court, Donaghy said NBA executives instructed certain referees “to manipulate games” to “boost ticket sales and television ratings.”
Donaghy gave specific examples but withheld team names. Donaghy mentioned Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals as one example. That game was between the LA Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. One flagrant foul that was never called stands out from the rest.
Laker Kobe Bryant clearly elbowed Sacramento’s Mike Bibby, sending Bibby to the floor bleeding. Yet no foul was called, which caused King fans to claim the fix was in. Now Donaghy is saying the fans were right.
If a referee wants to favor one team over another, all he has to do is call a few extra fouls against the unfavored team and fewer fouls against the favored team. That gives his favored team extra free throws and extra points and the exact opposite for the unfavored team.
The following is a Sacramento area newscast regarding Donaghy’s allegations.
That is what Donaghy claims happened in game six between the Lakers and the Kings in 2002, and the media and fans wanted the referees’ heads after that game. Many Kings fans claimed then that the fix was in, and even today, six years later, some still cite that game as the smoking gun proving that officials manipulate key NBA games.
Donaghy also stated that it has happened in other games too. During the 2005 playoff series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets, Jeff Van Gundy, who was then the Rockets’ coach, stated publicly that an NBA official had privately told him that his star 7′ 6″ center, Yao Ming, would be singled out by referees for illegal screens during the series. The NBA fined Van Gundy $100,000 for that remark.
But Donaghy’s letter states “the referees followed the league instructions and Team 3 came back from behind to win the series. The N.B.A. benefited from this, because it prolonged the series, resulting in more tickets sold and more televised games.”
What is the NBA’s reply to these accusations?
Stern dismissed Donaghy’s allegations as baseless and said that the accusations come from the mouth of an admitted felon.
“He turned on basically all of his colleagues in an attempt to demonstrate that he is not the only one who engaged in criminal activity,” Stern said. “The US attorney’s office, the FBI have fully investigated it, and Mr. Donaghy is the only one who is guilty of a crime. And he’s going to be sentenced for that crime, regardless of these desperate attempts to implicate as many people as he can.”
And so far, he is correct. No other charges have yet been filed by the FBI, despite their investigations.
But when officiating decides the outcome of games instead of plays, you cannot fault the public for holding their noses from the stink. Claims of NBA game rigging have been floating around for years.
Donaghy’s latest statements will certainly do nothing but stir up the pot on this controversy.