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Friday, July 20, 2007

New York Post Reports that an NBA Referee is Under Investigation for Fixing NBA Games

This could turn out to be the darkest day in the history of the NBA. Murray Weiss of the New York Post reports that the FBI is investigating an NBA referee for betting thousands of dollars on games that he officiated and for making calls during those games to affect the point spread. Weiss does not identify the referee by name but ESPN.com has reported that the referee in question is Tim Donaghy, who recently resigned. At this point, it is not clear how many games were involved, though Weiss writes that a source told him that the number is in "double digits." It is also not clear if the outcomes of games were manipulated or just the point spreads.

The NBA has always vigorously tried to protect itself against even the hint of a gambling scandal. Ralph Beard, Dale Barnstable and Alex Groza--who played together at the University of Kentucky--were banned for life from the NBA because of their involvement in the infamous 1951 betting scandal that almost destroyed college basketball. Jack Molinas was banned from the NBA for alleging conspiring to fix games; he later was the main figure behind college basketball's 1961 betting scandal. Commissioner David Stern has adamantly refused to consider placing an NBA team in Las Vegas unless all NBA action is taken off of the books. Interestingly, the current scandal in the making apparently does not involve legal action in Las Vegas but illegal gambling being done by mafia connected figures in New York.

It is of paramount importance for any sports league not only that everything is on the up and up but that everything is perceived to be on the up and up. Even if this turns out to be "just"--and I use that word advisedly--a case involving one NBA referee, this potential scandal in the making will shake the confidence of fans and cause them to think "conspiracy" every time a call goes against their favorite team. This is a potential legal, ethical and public relations disaster for the NBA.

posted by David Friedman @ 4:10 PM



At Friday, July 20, 2007 6:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Leonard Koppett report a similar case involving a referee during the 70s in his "24 Seconds to Shoot"? I remember both the book and a reference in Pluto's Tall Tales.

At Saturday, July 21, 2007 4:27:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Based on some of your recent questions, you seem to have a pretty good library of classic basketball books. The incident that you are apparently thinking of did not happen in the 1970s (Koppett's book was published in 1968) but in 1953 and is mentioned both in 24 Seconds to Shoot and on page 21 of Pluto's Tall Tales. Pluto cited Koppett's book as the source for stating that during the 1952-53 season Sol Levy was fired as a referee for accepting $3000 to fix three NBA games. Pluto wrote that the Molinas and Levy incidents are "the only two reported cases of fixing games in NBA history."

At Saturday, July 21, 2007 5:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On books, ebay has been good to me.

Are there any good books about Molinas and/or Levy? Charley Rosen wrote a book on Molinas, but Rosen is sometimes too opinionated a writer.

At Saturday, July 21, 2007 6:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I don't know of any books about Levy and had actually forgotten about him until you brought him up in your comment.

Rosen wrote Scandals of '51--which discusses Molinas--and The Wizard of Odds, a biography about Molinas. Molinas is discussed in a number of books but I think that Rosen's volume is the only full length biography of him.


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