Are the NBA Finals Rigged?
Another year, another controversy in professional basketball about just how clean the NBA really is. The last ref caught messing with the game says the fix is still in.
“The NBA releases the (officiating) assignments at 9 a.m. on Sunday. I’m gonna guess them now and we can see if I’m right,” said Tim Donaghy. “Danny Crawford, Monty Mccutchen, and Duke Callahan. You watch.”
Donaghy made these predictions to The Daily Beast on Friday afternoon in another attempt to show just how rigged he believes the NBA still is, even years after he was barred from the NBA for betting on and controlling the point spread in games he was officiating. By Sunday morning, those predictions were proven correct.
Donaghy spent 11 months in a Pensacola federal prison for manipulating NBA point spreads, but says the fix is still in—especially during an NBA Finals that have received harsh criticism for series-changing suspensions and suspect foul calls.
Both the NBA and FBI completed investigations proving Donaghy was the only one participating in manipulating point spreads or outcomes.
“Here’s the bottom line: When Draymond Green kicks Steven Adams in the nuts like a full karate chop and doesn’t get suspended, it’s because (the Warriors) were down 3-1 and they needed him on the floor,” said Donaghy. “Then he gets in a little altercation with LeBron. He grazes him, and he gets suspended.”
Warriors All-Star Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5 after tapping LeBron James in the groin while the Cavaliers star stood over him. No foul was called during the game, but a retroactive flagrant foul was called, putting Green over the postseason limit for flagrants, and forcing Golden State to play a pivotal home game without him.
The Cavaliers have since unexpectedly won two straight games to even the series and force a Game 7 on Sunday night.
“When (the league office) says to the referees—get (or punish) the first act; don’t get second act, and they don’t do that themselves? As a man and an NBA player, you have to let him react. They let LeBron bitchslap him, and Draymond gets suspended. And it’s because (the Cavs) were up 3-1. That’s the reason why.”
Game 6 presented even more controversy when NBA MVP Steph Curry fouled out for the first time all season. Warriors coach Steve Kerr called three of the six foul calls “absolutely ridiculous.” Both he and Curry were fined $25,000 by the league for criticizing officiating.
Curry’s wife, Ayesha, tweeted shortly after Curry was ejected that “I’ve lost all respect sorry this is absolutely rigged for money… Or ratings in [sic] not sure which. I won’t be silent . Just saw it live sry.” She later deleted the tweet.
“Now, you see Curry’s wife putting out some stuff saying it’s rigged when he hasn’t fouled out of a game all year,” said Donaghy. “There were some real cheap fouls called on him.”
Donaghy then outlined how he believes the game could have been rigged.
“This is what happens: They put them in a hotel room. They used to have a VCR set up where they’d go over film for an hour and a half. They’d say, ‘The referees in the last five games missed this. We want this called,’” he said. “They’d show them three or four places of Curry reaching in. So now anytime Curry reaches in or there’s a bump where Curry’s involved, they looking for it.”
Donaghy says it’s clearest on the sixth and final foul where “LeBron ran him over” but a reaching foul was called on Curry. The MVP was then subsequently ejected for throwing his mouthguard in frustration.
That call was made by Jason Phillips, who Donaghy notes “blatantly missed the take foul in the OKC series.” Phillips was roundly criticized for bungling Game 5 of the San Antonio Spurs-Oklahoma City Thunder Western Conference Semifinals, after he failed to call an intentional foul Kawhi Leonard attempted to commit on Russell Westbrook, potentially costing the Spurs the game and eventually the series. The NBA’s Last Two Minute officiating report even noted that the call was incorrect.
“You find me a job in America where you can just totally screw up what you do and you still get a promotion. It’s the only one where that happens,” said Donaghy. “How does he get into the Finals?”
Donaghy notes that the league lets officials know of their assignments 48 hours before every game, but doesn’t see a reason why NBA officiating crews for all seven games couldn’t be announced before Game 1.
Even prominent writers about sports conspiracies believe that a rigged NBA Finals, however, is simply too much to pull off.
“‘The fix is in!’ is usually the cry of the loser who thought they had a win and saw it turn into a loss,” Brian Tuohy, who wrote conspiracy books The Fix Is In and Larceny Games told Vocativ writer Bobby Silverman.
"The NBA Finals are, (Ayesha Curry) says, rigged," Silverman added. "To which we say no, don’t be ridiculous."
To the league’s credit, Donaghy said, “not many games have been decided by officials—at least not in the last three minutes of the game” in the 2016 playoffs. He said it’s not as bad as the infamous 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Kings and Lakers, one in which Donaghy’s attorney alleged that “the referees' favoring of [the Lakers] led to that team's victory that night” at the league’s request.
But he believes the NBA is “due” for a game where “the wrong team wins” the Finals due to officiating.
“Sunday night could be a disaster now if those calls at the end of the game are not right,” he said. “They’ve escaped this for many years, and it’s their worst nightmare.”
Why would the league do it?
“If the networks are making $15 million for every Game 6 or 7, how much do you think (TV networks) are gonna bid when those negotiations come back around?” he said.
Donaghy now lives in Florida and runs his own sports handicapping site called RefPicks.com. In 2014, he accused the league of pressuring referees to influence the 2014 Nets-Raptors series in Brooklyn’s favor. The Nets, who trailed that series 3-2, wound up winning.
He was released from prison in August of 2009, but was was sent back a month later for violating release terms. He was released again in November of 2009.