For those people who ever doubted that more than a few National Basketball Association games were fixed, last season brought out perfect proof that it definitely has happened.
After being busted by the FBI, banished referee Tim Donaghy admitted that he had been betting on NBA games for four years, including ones that he officiated in. The probe discovered that among the games Donaghy wagered on the most heavily, his bets covered the point spread 15 consecutive times. In his dealings he provided inside information such as player injuries to others who also placed bets.
For defenders of the NBA's image and integrity, it was a punch right in the gut. Since Donaghy was placing wagers on other referees' games, that indicates that other refs had tendencies and biases, and Donaghy knew them. And if Donaghy knew the tendencies of other officials, then they surely knew Donaghy's too. To think that Donaghy was the only person in the NBA involved in this conspiracy would be naive.
Donaghy will forever be known as the fool in this story, but his is simply the classic case of a man who had a gambling addiction that got out of control. Donaghy is just the product and victim of an environment that embraces gambling, one created by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Always a businessman first, and perhaps jealous of the great kinship between gambling and the NFL, Stern is now fascinated with Nevada. Stern has thoroughly explored the possibility of building an expansion team in Las Vegas. The Olympic qualifying team trained and played its tournament in Las Vegas. Last year's All-Star Game was played for the first time in, you guessed it, Vegas. Where did the All-Star referees stay in Las Vegas? The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.
Stern stated that the NBA launched its own earlier investigation into the Donaghy matter, however the casinos have no record of it. In fact, when Stern found out that more than half of his referees had violated NBA gambling policy by entering gaming areas, he decreed it to be a bad rule, so now all refs are allowed to participate in off-season casino gambling.
Of course, in the past Stern had handled Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan, huge bettors compared to Donaghy. Ever the marketing genius, after Magic Johnson and Larry Bird retired, Stern guided Michael through six championships. But what was with Michael's pathetic 1 1/2 year attempt at playing professional baseball, or should I say his gambling suspension? Why was Jordan's father murdered? And why have fans never seen a single Ping-Pong ball come out of the draft lottery machine?
Like the marketing campaign for the 2007-08 season says, the NBA is "Where amazing happens." Stern himself stated, "Amazing is where Ben Wallace's hair happens, where Donaghy happens, where clubbing happens, where registered weapons happen. We invite our fans to mesh up whatever happens. It's all there. We are the absolute reflection of what's going on out there in the world. Anyone who doesn't think so doesn't know what's going on in the world."
If things are going to be that ugly in your world Commissioner Stern, by all means, stop telling us what is happening in it.
Predictions: Division winners - San Antonio, Phoenix, Utah, Boston, Chicago and Washington.
Other playoff teams - Dallas, Houston, Denver, LA Lakers, Golden State, Cleveland, Detroit, New Jersey, Toronto, and Orlando.
Finals - Commissioner Stern said he "would be concerned if television ratings are poor again this year," which translates into "don't expect San Antonio to go all the way again." Although the Spurs have won four out of the last nine championships, they never repeat anyway. The pick here is Phoenix over Cleveland.