As a previously avid NBA watcher, I often fell into the category of wondering if there really was a conspiracy to craft the best possible winner in games. This was especially true in the playoffs. There is no way you can watch the Jazz vs Bulls playoffs and not see the obvious favorable bias given in officiating to ever popular Michael Jordan. Framed for all eternity is the push-off Jordan used on Brian Russel to create the space he needed to make the game-winning shot. Of course, you can’t deny Jordan’s amazing abilities, but this one event gave many of us avid fans of the underdog additional belief that the league and officiating was also working behind the scenes to ensure the preferred storyline was kept.
Living and rooting for a “lesser” market team has always been an exercise in frustration. The recruiting possibilities are hampered because our team owners are not willing to spend gratuitously above the luxury limits like the big market, and therefore richer teams so easily do. We attempt to take pride in our “working man’s” team image, but deep down we just resent the ability for big markets to buy their way into franchise dominance. The money paid to players, in general, is completely out of control, but that is another rant.
So as our players compete, and often quite well, with their lineup of hardworking and lesser-known names, we root for them and revel in the wins against the league favorites. Sure, we get our moments during the season with “big” wins against such teams, but come later in the season when seeding and playoff considerations take place the tone of the games change with them. Each team puts out additional effort, but the officiating seems also to take a turn. More favor is given for the star players; the literal money men for the league and especially for advertising. It’s no secret; the sportscasters talk about it at length, even expecting and remarking that such talent and veteran status deserves the star treatment.
A fair game starts with fair play and ends with fair officiating. Every player should be called under the same rules and with the same consideration. I long ago tired of Shaq getting an allowance for his knock-em-out-of-the-way-and-dunk moves along the baseline. I practically fall out of my seat every time I see a hook employed by Kobe or any other player to pin their defender in place while they make a photo-op move to the basket. Traveling? Don’t get me started.
Up to this point, we NBA conspiracy theorists had to rely on quoting situations, recording video proof from games (posted to YouTube these days by many), and simply be considered those crazy fans that just can’t deal with the fact that their team sucks. Guess what, now we have proof.
Now we have NBA refs admitting to betting on games. Sure, they are trying to say they only used inside information for gain, but we all know the reality is when money is riding on a game there has to be an influence on their play calling. There is no doubt in my mind that the outcome of games was altered when it served their needs. And this is only a situation so public simply because someone was caught. How much of this has and is going on behind the scenes where someone has not been nailed for their illicit activity? I guarantee you much more than we know about simply because of this one situation.
I have always loved the game of basketball. I loved playing it before I blew my knee out, sidelining me for life. I love watching it. Yet now I rarely watch a professional game. Sure, I still enjoy the sport; but the collegiate level is far more entertaining to me. For some reason, the college game seems, somehow, less scripted.