As some of you know, I'm a huge sports fan and total homer for our teams here in Denver. I'm a hockey fan first, football fan second, and basketball fan third. Baseball bores me to tears. Still, I'm a big-time and long-time Nugget fan, even remembering the old Denver Rocket ABA days when I was a kid. Something has always bothered me greatly about the NBA, and recent discussion here and elsewhere has forced me to revisit a pretty well-supported notion that I have. Moreso than in any of the other major 4 sports in this country, NBA games are not played on a level court. And haven't been for years and years. More thoughts after the jump (just because).
My immediate thoughts stem from watching the last few Nugget games against some of the NBA's "chosen ones," the Lakers and Kobe and the Cavs and LeBron. To say that the officiating was one-sided against the Nuggets in those games would be, at best, kind. It was, as it usually is, a complete joke. Watching LeBron cruise to the hole, guys back off of him to avoid contact, and LeBron still get calls, was atrocious. Conversely, Melo could take it strong to the rack, someone could jump into him, and no call would be made. But could I just be seeing things with my whatever color blue the Nugs happen to be wearing and gold glasses? Sure I could be. But let's look at larger, systemic issues.
Of course, fairly recent revelations about Tim Donaghy sparked quite a bit of controversy, as they should have. Some folks think that Donaghy and other referees did impact the outcome of specific games, such as this playoff game between Phoenix and San Antonio. And Donaghy has railed against other officials and the league in trying to defend himself. Of course, this has been pretty neatly swept under the rug, as most such accusations are. But what if there is video evidence to support the notion that even the commissioner himself has been involved in some sort of "fix" in the past?
I was floored the first time I saw this, as it was included in a rare Sports Guy (Bill Simmons) column not about teams from Boston. It is a video of the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery. In summary, about half way through the video, the only person in the world (supposedly) who knew which logos were in which envelopes, intentionally throws one, and only one (the 4th one) envelope hard against the inside of the drum, creating a bent corner on only that envelope. Next, the commissioner intentionally searches for the envelope with the bent corner as the first envelope chosen, which, of course, turns out to be the NY Knicks envelope and gives them Patrick Ewing, the overwhelming number one selection for that year. To me, this is video evidence that this particular draft was fixed for the Knicks.
So why go there? To me, it is not at all a stretch to conclude that a commissioner capable of such a fix is still leading a league where fixes happen. And watching games, it seems pretty evident that officiating is often very uneven, often times to the point of being comical. Could I be wrong? Sure. But I find it interesting nonetheless.