- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
*by Sports Columnist, Greg Higgins – eParis Extra!*
Now that basketball season is over, I would like to say something. Hopefully I can say this without the wrath of the NBA coming down on me. David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA, has lofted out some pretty hefty fines for what I’m about to say, but I don’t care. It needs to be said and after this past season, I believe it more than ever before. Here it is: “The officiating in the NBA has got to be fixed.” There I said it. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest.
Seriously, though, something has to be done. It’s almost comical to watch. There were times during the post season that I had to check my TV Guide channel to make sure I was watching the NBA instead of the latest WWE pay-per-view. There were some games that if Kevin Garnett would have run into the crowd and grabbed a medal folding chair and used it on Lebron James, the refs wouldn’t have called a foul. There was more flopping than a World Cup soccer game, and I can’t tell you how many times I saw someone commit an obvious foul and then look at the official with bewilderment when the foul was called. What I don’t understand – and I think most fans would agree – is how inconsistent the officiating can be. If hacking someone in the first minute of a game is a foul, then how is it not a foul with a minute left in the game? If standing there as Lebron steam rolls over you is called a blocking foul on this end of the court, how can it be a charge when the same play happens on the other end? Then, of course, you have to bring up the subject of “Star Treatment” in the NBA. It’s no secret and is known by everyone that the star players get preferential treatment amongst the officials. Michael Jordan would usually take three steps or so before his electrifying dunks that everyone paid money to see. Players like Kobe and Lebron usually get away with more than Mario Chalmers and Luke Walton. I understand this is a way of life in the NBA and has been for a long time, however it seems to be going overboard lately.
I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist when it comes to sports but I know a lot of people who are. My cousin is always telling me that she believes all of them are fixed and the outcome is pretty much set. My granddad used to tell me he believed that certain games were fixed so that a series would last longer. He didn’t necessarily believe that the entire series was determined but certain games so that the NBA could get more money out of it. There are other people that believe the NBA has the fix in for certain teams. Lots of people believe the lottery this year was fixed so that the New Orleans Hornets would get the first pick in this year’s draft. Similar claims are made about the Knicks getting the first pick in the 1985 draft. The same people making these claims are also the same people that will tell you the NBA uses officiating to dictate the outcome of games. You’ll have a hard time convincing Dallas Mavericks fans that the 2006 NBA finals weren’t dictated by the officials. With the Mavericks up two games to none and up by 13 points with 6 minutes and 40 seconds left in game three, Dwayne Wade single handedly put the Heat on his back and they came back to win that game and the next three to win the championship. Of course, there were some very controversial calls during that series and some really disturbing trends as well. In game five of that series, Wade shot 25 free throws which equaled the entire amount the Mavericks team had shot. It was hard not to wonder about officials after that series. It was hard not to question but still I hoped that it would not be true. Some people believed this was David Stern’s way of getting back at Mark Cuban, the Mavs owner, for being such a flamboyant and arrogant owner. I chose to believe that the game I love was not tainted by corrupt officials.
My hopes came crashing down, though, in 2007 when Tim Donaghy, an official for 13 years in the NBA, decided to come clean and announce that he had bet on games that he officiated in and that he made calls during those games that would affect the point spread. This was a nightmare for the NBA. Now, people were looking at games in which questionable things happened and they were claiming foul (pun intended) play. Every game for the past decade was being scrutinized. Donaghy had claimed that commissioner Stern would intentionally send certain officials to a series in which he wanted the balance of power in the series to shift from one team to the other. The NBA strongly renounced these accusations of course; however the damage had already been done. The conspiracy theorists now had evidence to back their claims. The people on the fence about this subject had enough weight in the matter to push them over the edge. The NBA would need to clean up their act and repair the damage done by these accusations.
So, what did they do? How did they respond? They did nothing. That’s right. The officiating hasn’t changed at all. As a matter of fact, it’s the one area in the league that a coach, player, or owner is not allowed to discuss at all without strict penalties from the league. They’ve slowly started instituting a replay type system that will help with out of bounds plays and three pointers. However, certain fans will not be happy until the NBA changes one thing: the inconsistency of officiating. Make the same violation a foul whether your name is Mario Chalmers or Lebron James. If it’s a violation early, make sure it is later in the game too. Just be consistent. Until this happens, there will be a lot of unhappy fans out there. For now, though, let’s all sit back and enjoy the Miami Heat: the WWE Champions…I mean NBA Champions.
Greg Higgins is a sports enthusiast and has been all of his life. He loves playing and watching all kinds of sports. He is actively involved with the Paris Community Theatre, and he also serves on an Advisory Committee for PJC.