In the annals of NBA referee conspiracy theories, the 2006 NBA Finals are up there with the Tim Donaghy betting scandal and a handful of others offered as “proof” by the tinfoil hat crowd that the fix is in and it comes all the way from the top.
In that series an aggressive and attacking Dwyane Wade got a lot of calls as he drove the lane on Dallas, while jump shooter Dirk Nowitzki and the other Mavs didn’t get the calls. Wade was at the line an average 18.3 times per game over the final for games of that series and seemed to get the benefit of the doubt because he was the aggressor.
Mark Cuban was so livid he hired a former FBI Agent to look into if things were fixed.
That according to John Canzano of the Oregonian who did a five-part series on officiating in the NBA.
During the 2006 NBA Finals, Cuban was frustrated after a Game 5 loss to the Heat, and went on the floor to vent to official Joe DeRosa, glaring, too, at Stern in the stands. Earlier that same playoffs Cuban also criticized how the officials are selected for the playoffs. He was fined $450,000 for those two incidents….
Retired FBI agent Warren Flagg, a 20-year veteran of the bureau, said he consulted with Cuban after that playoff debacle. Flagg now runs his own New York-based investigation and security firm. He looked deep into officiating, as Flagg said, Cuban was considering a lawsuit.
“Cuban asked me what he should do,” Flagg said of the 2006 Finals. “I told him, ‘Sue and you’ll win your case,’ but he knew he’d be killing the Golden Goose.”
When asked about his discussions with Flagg, Cuban said: “I don’t remember.”
What did you expect the guy with the investigation business to say, “I couldn’t find anything?” That’s not how he gets paid.
Officiating in the NBA is far from perfect, something these playoffs have clearly shown. Canzano’s series does a great job in looking at both that and the perception problems it creates for the league. Adam Silver is trying to be more transparent with officiating corrections, but there needs to be more public accountability. There is a fantastic part of the series that talks about the power struggles within officiating crews and how that can skew calls. There’s more.
All of that leads to some to make the next leap to conspiracy theory. But just as is the main flaw with almost any conspiracy — the illuminati, the CIA killed Kennedy, Area 51, etc — it counts on large groups with sometimes competing interests plus often inefficient organizations to maintain perfect secrecy and focus on the end game. The league with its owners and all those referees couldn’t do that if they wanted do.
A bad call is just a bad call. If you don’t want to be subject to the whims of calls late, win the game by 20. Otherwise this is just part of the contest.