OT: RIgged officiating in the NBA?

Submitted by PeterKlima on April 2nd, 2013 at 9:19 AM

People have made the very reasonable argument that in a multi-billion dollar industry (sports) that depends to a certain degree on "judgment calls" that there HAS to be a less than insignificant level of "cheating" by officials.


We see cheating in every other aspect, but we refuse sometimes to acknowledge its possibility by officials. Even after a ref or two comes out to and comments that it happens. I think that we convince ourselves to believe it is not true because we love to watch the games. If we were to discuss and even possibly accept that the playing field may not be equal it would fundamentally undermine something EVERYONE on here loves (sports).  We won't allow ourselves to believe it is possible.


With that said, it is also very difficult to prove. This video (from Reddit, yes) is pretty interesting:




What do you think?



April 2nd, 2013 at 9:31 AM ^

Either that or the NBA has a difficult time finding refs who are very good at... reffing.

I think in order to use this kind of evidence to build any kind of an argument either way, you would have to take a random sample of NBA games and measure the number of incorrect calls, and then take a sample of "important" NBA games and measure the number of incorrect calls to determine if there is any correlation.


April 2nd, 2013 at 9:38 AM ^

I think they are just bad. I haven watched a lot of Pistons games this year, all of which were generally meaningless, and I just shook my head on about 10-12 calls each game.

But I wouldn't be surprised to find out refs are told to give certain teams a break. I've seen too many games "decided" by an officials whistle in favor of a big market team.


April 2nd, 2013 at 9:52 AM ^

I think you would need to measure calls for important plays.  Refs can cover their tracks by throwing a couple insignifiant fouls out there.  Plus, it may not be the important games.  It could be like Toledo and point shaving.  The games no one cares about are primed for corruption.

WHile I agree that some people are just bad, you have to think that only helps cover those that have ill intent.  

I dont think you can pull off a grand conspiracy across the league.  I just think that there is ample motivation and opportunity combined with an inability to really determine if refs are bad or on the take.  It seems very very possible.


April 2nd, 2013 at 10:18 AM ^

That game was horribly rigged. The Kings outplayed the Lakers for the entire game and lost because of made up fouls combined with blatant no-calls. This is nothing new in the NBA though. Anyone here old enough to remember the phantom foul that cost the Pistons against the Lakers in 88? It should have been three in a row for the Bad Boys.


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:17 PM ^

I remember watching this series and seeing the Kings completely outplay the Lakers but get totally jobbed by the refs.  It was ridiculous.  One phantom foul after another went against the Kings on the offensive and defensive end.  Shaq would just bull over a defender and they'd call a defensive foul - then as you see in the video, a Laker would flop when Webber got the ball and they'd call a foul on Webber.  Clearly, the fix was in.  The NBA must have wanted the big market Lakers to prevail over the smaller market Kings.  The Kings were far better, the class of the league that year and one of the best teams ever, and played far better than the Lakers.  It was sad to see them go out that way, not losing but being robbed.  It was also sad for CWebb who deserved a championship that year.  IMO, the Kings were the true champions that year even though the Lakers were "officially" literally given the championship.

There's a great article on "roundballdaily.com" on this travesty called "The Lost Champions."  There's also reference to the fixed officiating in the wikipedia entry for 2002 NBA playoffs.  A referee even testified under oath to the feds about the fixed officiating.



April 2nd, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

That series was clearly rigged. It wasn't by the NBA though, it was a certain referee who liked to gamble and ended up in prison.

They definitely have a problem with the refereeing though. Joey Crawford, for instance, hated Allen Iverson, and so gamblers knew if he was officiating a 76ers game, you bet against the 76ers because it was almost a lock. He's also the guy who actually T'd up Tim Duncan. Tim Duncan! Stuff like that needs to change.


April 2nd, 2013 at 9:37 AM ^

It would be foolish to assume that cheating doesn't occur, but a certain amount of cheating that everyone seems to accept already goes on: giving preferential treatment to superstars has been going on for at least 30 years.  It's great when the superstar is on your team; it sucks when he's on the other team.  


April 2nd, 2013 at 9:38 AM ^

NBA refs "manage" the games too much for my tastes anyway.  I don't know if it's rigging so much, but letting the league's stars (and biggest money magnets) get away with way more of everything takes a lot of joy out of watching NBA for me.


April 2nd, 2013 at 9:46 AM ^

mind.  The NBA has been rigged for many years.  I think all the way back to when the Pistons played the Lakers in the 80's.  For sure the last time the Pistons won the NBA championship.  That series had no business going 5 games, but the NBA thought the Lakers should win at least one game.  The end of game 4 was an absolute joke, and I think even the Pistons were in on extending the series to at least 5 games.  

If my wife was coaching the Pistons, they would have won game 4, instead, the Pistons allow the Lakers to inbound the ball to Shaq, don't immediately foul him, and allow him to pass the ball to Kobe who dillies and dallies for a few seconds (they don't foul him either) and then drains a wide open three from the top of the key to either win it or send it to OT.  I was enraged at the time, and haven't watched an NBA game since.


April 2nd, 2013 at 10:01 AM ^

for the error.  It was game 2 that went into OT and the Pistons lost.  Still, it was very fishy how it ended, and other than the remaining games of that series, I haven't watched an NBA game since.  Thanks for the correction.  And apologies to the first gentleman who caught my mistake above too.


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:29 PM ^

I did watch the rest of the series, but it did infuriate me the way game 2 played out.  Like I said, the way the last 8-10 seconds of that game in regulation was played, it was obviously an effort to let LA win a game at home and force the series to go at least 5 games.  It was too easy for the Pistons to win game 2 for it to be anything else.  But yeah, back then, your description of a 'tight grip' is very accurate.  Cooled off a bit since then, but still don't respect the NBA.  Appreciate your input.


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:54 PM ^

I'm very similar, actually. My interest in the NBA was almost completely gone when the Pistons started being relative in the early 2000's. I only began watching again because I liked the way that version of the Pistons played (aggressive defense & spread the ball on offense).

Since the Pistons last conference championship game (2006/2007?), I've probably watched a total of 15 minutes of NBA games.

It's a boring version of the game. It's all isolation plays. I'd rather watch a Gus Macker tournament or pick-up basketball.

snarling wolverine

April 2nd, 2013 at 1:22 PM ^

Honestly, is it the "brand of basketball" that's the problem or just the fact that the local team has sucked?  

I have a hard time following the Pistons right now, but if they turn it around (and they might in the future, assuming Drummond makes a full recovery), I'll watch.  It's really hard to remain loyal to a terrible pro team.  I'll watch Michigan win or lose, but I'm not willing to make the same sacrifice for the Detroit teams.

I bet if the Pistons become a playoff contender again, we'll suddenly see a lot more NBA posts here, with people praising the Pistons for "playing the right way."  The right way, of course, is winning.





April 2nd, 2013 at 9:48 AM ^

Six or seven years ago (long enough ago that I was still listening to sports radio) when it came about about that NBA ref who was shaving points, a retired NBA ref admitted there was unspoken pressure from the league to help certain teams and certain players, especially in the playoffs. Paraphrasing here: "Nothing was ever said; they made their objectives known and if you did right you got the better jobs."

Yes, to a degree the NBA is rigged; you still have to be good enough to get to plausibility. If you're gonna be an NBA fan you have to live with this fact.


April 2nd, 2013 at 10:31 AM ^

I have not watched the NBA on a regular basis since that farce of a series. I root for the Pistons and all but I just don't follow as closely as I did years ago.

Also: I was at a Pistons-Warriors game the season Detroit last won a title. One ref blatantly baited Rip Hamilton into a technical foul. Larry Brown went ballistic as did the crowd because the replay showed Rip was called for a bogus foul, didn't chew out the ref except say 'what did I do' and then get T'd up. Years later, I found out Tim Donaghy was one of the refs that game. One can argue coincide but I don't buy it.


April 2nd, 2013 at 1:28 PM ^

Stern has hated the Pistons since he got in the league.  He couldn't stand how they were beating Jordan in the late 80s and he hate the Pistons in the mid 2000s.  What I can't stand is Stern always acts like a complete jackass whenever someone questions the refs in the NBA


April 2nd, 2013 at 10:40 AM ^

OR instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, just do as all NBA fans do and incorporate this into the narrative. The Pistons couldn't get a call against the Lakers in '04 but then dominated that Finals to such a degree that it's still remembered as "The 5-0 Sweep." Pistons fans know there's certain refs who will duke us, and certain refs who will call it depending on who we're playing (for example the notorious Bavetta is an enemy against Lakers and Celtics but helpful against Nets).

Just like WWE, it's quite enjoyable if you let your brain give up on thinking it's about competitive spirit, and sit back and enjoy the drama.


April 2nd, 2013 at 11:08 AM ^

Except the WWE is a story based form of entertainment whereas sports is a competition that is supposed to be legitimate. Winners and losers don't matter in the WWE because you know in the end it's just advancing the story. Winners and losers do matter in professional sports, so when a league shows a blatant disregard for objectivity I can't watch any more. I honestly couldn't even name half the players on the Pistons anymore because I just don't watch the NBA.

French West Indian

April 2nd, 2013 at 11:13 AM ^

People like to make fun of the "fake" wrestling but the credibility of the NBA is nearly as bad.

But why stop there?  We tend to assume that other sports are legit but is there really any reason to assume the the NFL, MLB, golf, olympics, whatever are clean?  I guess the cynic in me is the reason that I'm a "casual fan" at best.  It just not worth giving your heart (or much of your money) to watching sports.

Edit:  And for whatever it's worth, I do enjoy watching the silliness of the WWE.  The NBA not so much.


April 2nd, 2013 at 11:08 AM ^

the Pistons got Lebroned by the refs, but they also got a sweetheart whistle for two years under Larry Brown.  The zebras let the Pistons get away with outright assault against the Lakers in the Finals and Chauncey mastered the hip flop and shot like 20 free throws a game in 2005.


April 2nd, 2013 at 10:38 AM ^

...if the NBA is rigged, doesn't it stand to reason that the NFL, MLB, or college sports has something going on somewhere?  Why would it be just the NBA?  There are the same type of fould calls in CBB.  And, a lot of missed, judgment calls in FB.


I can't believe if it is happening that it would only happen in one sport.


April 2nd, 2013 at 12:06 PM ^

I am not a big NHL fan although I try hard. It might even be the change in the game caused by Klima and other defectors that soured me at times (like Don Cherry?)

I don't use drugs.

My real name is often misspelled by others and it bothers me.

I am relatively boring compared to Klima.

But,that is what you want in a pseudonym, isn't it?


April 2nd, 2013 at 11:08 AM ^

In today's day and age, it's not nearly as bad. Noone doubts the Kings-Lakers Game 6 was fixed; early 00s it was bad, and even then you had the Pistons/Spurs (definitely not "company teams") dominating the league. 

It has clearly gotten better since the early '00s, and hopefully there is some accountability moving forward. But to say issues like this only impact the NBA seems somewhat ignorant; basketball is the sport where officials have the most visible impact, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen elsewhere.

Even looking solely at basketball, I'm sure you could find quite a few Big Ten games this season that would have had different results if officiated "correctly" (most obvious to us being the Wisconsin game, where OT was an absolute travesty).


April 2nd, 2013 at 10:01 AM ^

I think there are two reasons why I don't think it's rigged:

1. Basketball calls are just so difficult to call, especially calls on charges, block and foul. (e.g,. Mitch's block on the Kansas's dude dunk is clean but it's called a foul; Louvsille woman basketball player flopped but it's called a charge on the Baylor offensive player). So opportunity to make a mistake is much higher than other sports.

2. This is America - where people value ethics (I think) in sports. For sure someone will speak up about thse non-ethical behaviors if it comes up, esp. those who are at the receiving ends of bad calls? There has to be traces in which refs are rigged. 

I just don't see how the refs are rigged. Yes, it's a lot of money, but so it's many other sports. Is the baseball empire rigged too? How about the soccer ref (that happened in Italy which is a more corrupt country than US I suppose)? All the same. Lots of tough cals to make, but basketball is just plain difficult to call - thus controversy. 

Mr Miggle

April 2nd, 2013 at 10:21 AM ^

If the calls were easy to make it would be harder to rig games. I'm not so sure about your comparison to other sports either. There are far more opportunities to squeeze or expand the strike zone in baseball and more close calls for holding or interference in football. As to your second point, the fans, announcers and players complain all the time, but leagues fine coaches that publicly criticize the officiating. NBA games have been rigged and probably still are. Refs will always make some bad calls, but there are also some made on purpose. What we don't know is how often it happens and we often have to guess as to why. 


April 2nd, 2013 at 11:38 AM ^

For the first reason, what I'm trying to say is that it's relatively easier for refers to make a mistakes in basketball: just very difficult to call. For the second point, I'm not sure why refs can make bad calls on purpose. I seriously don't. Remember they have to make a split-second decision, whereas we have more than 10x opportunities to review a play.

All I'm saying is: referees like other people make mistakes, sometimes in favor of a team, other times in favor of another team. But we tend to remember those that they make the mistakes that have big-time consequences, not those that are minor. I simply think it's very difficult for one referees to rig, and when the number of refs rigging increase, the chance of rigging being discovered increases.

Mr Miggle

April 2nd, 2013 at 12:31 PM ^

You are right that there will be plenty of mistakes. One can't point at a blown call as evidence of cheating. At the same time, the presence of many mistakes makes it much easier to cheat. Refs don't have to work together to cheat. That would be more effective, but also greatly increases the chances of getting caught. One ref can change the outcome of games often enough. Only the the truly bad cheaters make sure they win every single time. The league can rig games very simply. Tell the refs, for example, to crack down on the overly physical play of a team before a playoff series. Some refs will make bad calls on purpose because they are people. Maybe they have money on a game, maybe there is personal animosity, maybe they are trying to make up for previous bad calls, maybe they are following instructions.