Steroids. HGH. Arrests. DWI's. "Tanking." And ever-so-recently, taping practices.
In the midst of one of the greatest NBA seasons of the past two decades, most fans had almost completely forgotten that only a year ago a disgraced referee had been convicted of the unthinkable--having connections with guys who compromise the integrity of the game.
The NBA pays its whistle blowers to maintain the highest level of integrity. They are paid to stay out of the news, avoid controversy with players and fans, and ultimately maintain the credibility of the sport. The BIGGEST no-no for an NBA ref is to gamble or associate with gamblers.
If there is any reason to believe that a ref has interests in a game going one way or another, it makes it a wasted spectacle--the WWE, but without writers (hey, if you're gonna stage sports, at least get some good story lines going!)
Now Tim Donaghy, the former NBA whistle blower, has become a whistleblower in what is-- if true-- the most devastating scandal in NBA history.
Donaghy alleges that NBA refs deliberately manufactured calls in the 2002 playoffs (snatching the series from the Kings and handing a game 7 to the Lakers) and deliberately targeted a specific player in 2005 to send him to the bench in foul trouble (Yao Ming, ultimately leading to the Mavericks ousting the Rockets in 7).
NBA conspiracy theorists have long held the view that the NBA takes care of its pet franchises and star players, particularly when it comes to receiving calls in the games. The Lakers/Kings series was long held as a big example of this action.
Now when conspiracy theories are voiced, they will have a little more validity, thanks to 2002.
In the 2005 first-round series between the Mavericks and Rockets, the calls against Yao Ming were apparently so bad it was visible to Rockets fans...not to mention the fact that Coach Jeff Van Gundy received a tip that the refs were targeting Yao to help lessen the 2-0 deficit the Mavericks were in. He was fined $100,000 for voicing information that was PASSED to him, and he dropped the issue.
Now every time fans see their team getting the short end of the calls, or a coach speaks out about the impact of the refs on a playoff game, Donaghy's words will open the possibility of a scandal, the chance that later on a whistle blower will be caught for taking down their team.
Ironically, as a Mavericks fan (well...much more in 2005 than now...), I watched tonight's report with my friend Alex, who is a die-hard Rockets fan. As much as it has to suck for him, having to wonder what could've been for his team in a series that was possibly tainted by the refs, I feel more distraught over the insurmountable doubt that is placed over every dramatic call and play in this great Celtics-Lakers Finals.
Is there a potential whistleblower among the whistle blowers in Game 3?