Who are you going to believe, the NBA or your lying eyes?

Briefly– it’s standard practice for the defenders of the NBA to laugh off anyone who thinks that the officiating is bad, to act as if any perceived bias is just crazy conspiracy theorizing, and that no one in their right minds could think such a thing. Well here I have been, watching a game in which the Denver Nuggets led practically wire to wire, only to have the game handed to the Lakers with laughably bad calls in the last couple minutes of the game. And let me tell you what all of my cognitive processes tell me: that this officiating was horrendous, and worse, it was bad in a way that consistently favored one team over another. What’s more, this comes in the context of a season of watching NBA basketball, in a lifetime of watching basketball, where the same team gets the same calls again and again and again. So what am I to think?

Here’s what I’m going to say: I don’t know why the NBA’s officiating is so bad, and I don’t know why it so consistently favors the LA Lakers. But I know that it’s bad, and I know it’s biased in favor of LA, because I watch the games, time and again, and time and again the same trends emerge. I’m not going to venture a guess as to how or why. Conspiracy theorizing, or whatever you want to call it, about the NBA fixing games is an attempt at explaining a phenonemon. I’m not out to explain it. I’m just out to assert that I have seen it again and again and I am tired of pretending that it isn’t real. And I know too many countless sports fans who have thrown up their hands and abandoned the NBA because they don’t think the game is fair, and for a sports league, the appearance of unfair competition is death. No, I don’t know why the officiating is so shitty, and I don’t know why it seems so consistently to benefit certain teams. I just know it happens, and I’m not going to continue to pretend that it doesn’t.

End rant.

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11 thoughts on “Who are you going to believe, the NBA or your lying eyes?

  1. I hate the Lakers as much as the next guy, but it should be said that earlier in the game there were some questionable calls that went against the Lakers. (A three-second violation? You have got to be kidding.)

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  2. Of course you know why it happened. The NBA dearly wants a Kobe vs. LeBron Finals. They will stop at nothing to get it. Do you really think the NBA wants an Orlando vs. Denver Finals? I know it would mean Dwight Howard vs. Carmelo but still. Every sports show on radio and TV admits the NBA wants a King James/Kobe Final.

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  3. Ah, the refs wanted the Lakers to win. That must be why the Nuggets shot 11 more free throws. Other than a mildly questionable reach-in call against Kenyon Martin there at the end, I’m curious to know which of those calls at the end of the fourth were “laughably bad.” Even that one was probably ticky-tack, but it was definitely a reach-in.

    The reason the Lakers pulled ahead in the fourth is because Fisher hit some threes after being stone cold all night and came up with some key steals in addition to hitting their free throws (more of which were called in the fourth because the Lakers dumped the ball into Gasol and Kobe drove to the hoop more often). Or maybe the refs magicked the ball into Ariza’s hands on that inbound? Or into the hoop on Bryant’s late dribble-penetration kick-out to Fisher?

    I won’t disagree with you that NBA officiating is spotty, and that some refs are much worse than others (if the Lakers go up 2-0, look for Bavetta in game three in Denver to make sure the series goes at least five or six games). ESPN’s Bill Simmons, the NBA’s biggest defender, has long made that case. But I didn’t see anything particularly egregious last night.

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  4. I hate NBA officiating, but in the fourth quarters of the Lakers-Nuggets series it has consistently gone in favor of whichever team drives the ball more. When the Nuggets won Game 2 it was because Billups drove to the hoop and collected a bunch of free throws, while the Lakers shot too many jump shots trying to catch up. Game 3, the Nuggets shoot and miss a zillion three-pointers while Kobe drives the ball and gets to the line and Gasol makes a couple of clutch baskets inside. Game Four, the officiating was so randomly bad as to rule out any rational scheme behind it – besides, the Lakers just lost that one. Sorry, but you’re going to have to appeal to specific examples if you’re going to justify your theory that the officiating favors the Lakers on balance. To Lakers fans it looks like a conspiracy when the refs don’t call the trip on Dahntay Jones, don’t give him a flagrant for a two-handed shove in the back when keeping possession would be crucial for the Lakers, that kind of stuff, or when they periodically let the big guys bang around down low and swallow their whistles, giving the advantage to the Nuggets, who can’t match Gasol’s skill and height and have to push him off the block.
    Kings-Lakers in 2006 or whenever that was – ok, the Game 6 was shady, if I recall. They started calling stuff for Kobe and esp. Shaq that hadn’t been called in the previous games, and the Lakers had a huge FT advantage. But that was a while ago now. Certainly you can make a pretty airtight case that there’s a double standard for superstar perimeter players – Wade in the Finals against the Mavs, LeBron’s many travels at the ends of close games, Kobe getting benefit-of-the-doubt touch fouls while driving in the fourth quarter. So insofar as the Lakers have one of those players, maybe so. But in this series Billups has gotten those calls too when he drives to the hoop. He just lowers himself into a horizontal stance and runs into Gasol’s thigh – two points. It’s pretty well documented that certain refs are more affected by the home crowd than others, but again, that only favors the Lakers when they’re at home. So yeah, the officiating is bad, and it often goes in favor of superstar players, but it also often goes in favor of the home team, whoever that might be.
    As for Game 1, you’re going to have to say more than “I saw it.” There is easily accessible video of the game – give us some examples.

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