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Is The NBA Rigged? We May Find Out Tonight. Pay Close Attention To The Refs, Fellow Conspiracy Theorists

If any major American sport is rigged, it’s the NBA. David Stern is probably the most dictatorial of all sports dictators (sorry, Roger Goodell, you’re not far behind), and basketball is probably also the easiest of them to rig, given the massive influence that referees have over each game. There is no way to confirm if the sport is slightly rigged, heavily rigged, or not rigged at all, but there is circumstantial evidence. There’s this cherry-picked video that claims the Lakers were predestined to make the playoffs. There are Tim Donaghy’s first-hand accounts. There are many legitimate arguments that the NBA Draft Lottery is rigged.

All circumstantial, yet all logical, all worthy of consideration. Just as there is no concrete proof that the NBA is rigged, there is no concrete proof that the NBA is not rigged. And it’s fun to speculate. Proliferating political conspiracies is not fun, because they are offensive. Proliferating sports conspiracies is fun. Let’s proliferate.

If the NBA is rigged, the Miami Heat will win tonight, or they will lose despite heavy favoritism from referees. The stakes are very high for David Stern — unequivocally, NBA Finals TV ratings will be substantially higher if the Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals instead of the Indiana Pacers. That does not mean that a Heat win means the NBA is rigged (they’re favored by seven points), but a Pacers win would certainly suggest that it is not.

Here are tonight’s referees:

Official 1: Scott Foster
Official 2: Mike Callahan
Official 3: Ken Mauer
Alternate: Tom Washington

What does this mean? One: Joey Crawford, David Stern’s right-hand man, is not refereeing. This means the NBA is not rigged. Or that it is, but David Stern is throwing us off his scent. Dictators are often cunning.

If you are looking for a heavily-cherry-picked argument that this assignment favors the Heat, here you go: Scott Foster spoke to Tom Donaghy a lot when he was doing sketchy things. Also: a tweet that I could not find evidence anywhere to back up, suggests that Foster has maybe-sorta-slightly favored the Heat in the past (though their record is excellent with ANY referee). Like I said, heavily-cherry-picked.

On the flip side, if you are looking for a heavily-cherry-picked argument AGAINST the NBA being rigged re: tonight’s assignment, we’ve got that too! In games Foster has refereed this year, the home team is just 34-46 against the spread! The Heat are the home team! That is very low. Maybe he likes underdogs! Maybe I should bet all my money on the Pacers!

I reiterate: this is all cherry-picked speculation. Picking cherries is fun, but no conspiracy has ever been proven by picking cherries. There are far too many cherries for far too few hands. To this point, you can make a convincing argument for, and against, the NBA being rigged. I could point to a probably-false rumor that Floyd Mayweather bet $5.9 million on the Heat -7 points. I could point to lots of things.

But, as I said, pay close attention to tonight’s officiating. If the officials favor the Heat, there will be a lot of delicious cherries in the “NBA is rigged” cherry-basket. Right now, both baskets have a lot of cherries. This would add a few tons to the rigged basket.

If you see anything suspicious, please tweet me @Mattrud, or us @SportsGrid. Use the ever-helpful hashtag, #TeamStern. And if the Heat win, I shamelessly refer you to my guide on how to cope with your sadness. I also recommend some Cherry Garcia to ease the pain. It’s unambiguously tasty.

Go Pacers, go fairness, go America.

Photo via

  • Reality

    “basketball is probably also the easiest sport to rig, given the massive influence that referees have over each game.”

    Can you list some references?

    How do basketball refs have any more influence on a game than football refs or umpires behind the plate/a lack of replays in the MLB.

    Go talk to someone in Turkey and they’ll tell you that soccer is by far the most rigged sport.

    Referees can’t rig basketball games. If you’ve played basketball then you’d understand that refs are consistent and players have to play around the refs. Players and/or coaches define games.

    And as far as Donaghy goes, nothing he talks about applies to this series. LeBron fouled-out in the fourth quarter of a close game 6, something Donaghy said refs wouldn’t allow, and refs were targeting players who threatened them or embraced them, but that definitely isn’t a problem. Overall, this series has been pretty balanced with calls. Not saying that every call has been great, but there are good calls and bad calls going both ways and that’s all you can ask for as a fan or a player.

    You’ll know this game is rigged if Paul George air-balls 10 free-throws, Vogel plays Tyler Hansbrough for 48 minutes or Hibbert starts shooting from behind the arch, otherwise don’t count on it.

    Players and coaches win or lose games.

  • Anonymous

    I was discussing major American sports. I definitely agree that soccer is easier to rig.

    This is my opinion. You could argue that baseball is easier to fix, but umpire data is analyzed more thoroughly. You can tell if an umpire’s call is wrong via computer tracking programs; I think it’s tough to do that for NBA refs.

    I agree with you that, so far, this series has been mostly fair. Obviously, the Pacers have won three games. It can’t be rigged for the Heat. Yet. The NBA does not care if the Heat sweep. A 7-game-series is best for them. We’ll find out tonight if they are willing to influence a game strongly. A Heat win would be huge for the bottom line.

    And I think you aren’t understanding my particular conspiracy theory. It’s not that players are paid off. Their salaries and pride are far too high. I’m discussing refs, that’s all.

  • BlackHoleSonRaider

    Great article! I should’ve put money on the Heat. My buddies and i are doing the exact same thing tonight, PAYING CLOSE ATTENTION TO THE REFS!

  • miller

    rigged. 5 fouls on hibbert and George. BYE BYE nba. you lost a fan forever. Stupid league

  • miller

    george..6 fouls now, hibbert 5, 4 david west. 1 for LBJ, 2 bosh 2 wade. Seems right.

  • http://twitter.com/JumpBallBlog Jump Ball Blog

    Scott Foster is the wild card. just look how many calls he was involved in. great game by foster.


  • Michael

    So the heat shot nearly twenty more free throws today and Paul George fouled out. Definitely suspicious.

  • Terrell Taylor

    That was a well orchestrated series by the refs. Pushing it all the way to game 7 when Miami should have won it in 5 or 6 (Stern’s orders no doubt). Then ensuring that Miami wins game 7 to boost ratings for the finals (again Stern’s orders). These refs deserve Academy Awards for Best Directors. This series rigging was about as bad as I’ve ever seen, other than the Lakers/Kings western conference finals. I may just switch to college basketball.

  • Jerry Dalum

    isnt it funny how the league tries to cover there asses. They allow Lebron James to foul out in the middle of the series just to setup this game 7. Try fouling out Lebron or any superstar in Game 7. It is quite funny and we all saw this that all it would take is to put Hibbert and George in foul trouble early and the game would be over. Nice job NBA. Yall get what you want, Lebron in the finals and although the Spurs are a small market, they have basically all their starters from different countries so the rating and popularity would grow just for the Spurs to win. No wonder the Spurs have been the small market to win alot.

  • Fuckthenba

    Same refs as game 2. Hmmmmmm….

  • Jerry Dalum

    all the league has to do, is use a 3rd party company to ref their games as Phil Jackson suggested, but the NBA ignores the facts.

  • Anonymous

    I see some definite bias against some teams and FOR some “superstars”. As a Memphis fan, we have to put up with a lot because our team is made up of some tough, defensive-minded, NON -superstars.
    One of the things that annoyed/amused me the most was when Tony Allen gets a $5,000 anti-flopping fine —considering Memphis had played against the Clippers with the kings of flops – “Blake the fake” who doesn’t even know which way to turn his head – and Chris Paul…. and then at the time of the fine, he was “being guarded” by Manu who is no stranger to “flopping” and fake injuries, himself.
    The Grizzlies got mauled by the Spurs in the paint….there should have been a jillion defensive three second technical called on the Spurs —-and none of it was called….
    The Grizz could have handled the Heat (had beat them already this year) –and were young, tough and can play defense –so the NBA didn’t want to take any chances of them upsetting “LeBron” and the magic ride.

  • Anonymous

    Refs can rig NBA games –based upon no calls, phantom fouls, the wrong out of bounds call, technicals…the list goes on and on….There’s not a whole lot of difference in talent in the NBA – but certain teams just “manage” to come out on top.
    BTW, Tim Donaghy IS proof-positive of this.
    It is pretty easy to change the outcome of an NBA game….
    Kind of like Marc Gasol’s face fouling Tim Duncan’s elbow….. it sometimes IS just who you are….
    Kobe shoves off on almost every closely-guarded shot. Against Memphis, Chris Paul “lightly” pushed off on the way to a game-winning layup. (direct quote from a newspaper)….last I checked, still an offensive foul.

  • DAW

    you can flag bad calls in football giving some power back to the teams

  • Disbeliever

    If you believe that the NBA can’t be rigged then I guess you also believe that the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny & Santa Claus all exist.

    Game 7 which was called a “ROUT” by the NBA butt kissing journalists that said the Heat were dominating the Pacers. However, it’s very conspicuous to me that the Heat had a total or 38 “free throw attempts” to just a paltry 20 attempts by Indiana. I am not a Heat nor a Pacers fan but an honest person cannot seriously contend that the Heat is the #1 team that get away with fouls & dirty plays. Doesn’t the NBA review video? They must not because if they did, they would make stricter rules against dirty plays as well as flopping. If a team loses a game as a result of flopping, what’s the big deal that a violator pays $5K.

    A championship is worth much more than a lousy fine. Flopping is cheating but yet players and team owners and staff pay more money in fines for complaining about the league. That seems quite rigged to me.

  • angela

    The Miami Heat games are rigged, in favor of the Heat “HOW HORRIBLE”

  • Come on now

    Do you know anything about basketball? I haven’t personally officiated football or baseball games. I have personally officiated basketball games and I have many friends who have officiated football and baseball games. (I did ump for a men’s softball league for a year if that makes a difference, lol) It is agreed amongst ourselves that basketball refs have way more influence on the outcome than any of the 3 sports.

    Every call in basketball is so trivial and is a judgment call, we can choose which fouls we see or don’t see. We can get the better players in foul trouble (in what other sport can a ref make a “star” player miss half the game?). We can dictate the tempo of the game.

    We can make it appear as if the game is being called fair based on number of fouls by simply, calling more fouls on away from ball or not in the act of shooting on Team B. We can make FTs match up by putting Team Bs poorer FT shooters on the line. (Team B Shot 3 more free throws but were 17/30 from the line, Team A was 21/27).

    We can take away momentum plays, made shots, etc. Travels, who the ball touched last, when the fouls were called, who they were called on.

    Sure football and baseball refs can make an impact as well. But basketball officials can make a bigger difference without anyone being any wiser.

  • Jay

    OMG this game is so fixed its not even funny. The Heat could of finished this finally in 4 games easy.

  • A.V. Stavern

    This article is spot on. The answer is YES – an NBA game’s outcome can be dictated by the refs. Stern henchman Joey Crawford robbed the Spurs of a championship last night in Finals Game 6 – swallowing his whistle on two very obvious fouls by the Heat late in the game. Even the dopey pro-Miami announcers – Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy questioned the non-calls.

    True, the Spurs were 5 seconds from the title and missed a couple of clutch free throws late in regulation – but the non-calls cost them the game. Ray Allen would never had possession and been able to take his three-pointer if the calls had been made properly and without favoritism by the refs. Allen even got to take 2 foul shots after HE fouled his defender – obvious in replay, again questioned by Van Gundy and Breen, and Crawford was right there watching in the replay.

  • Dwillbtuff

    You guys are not really serious. The spurs are the Darlings of the NBA and their JoeyCrawford beef is fake. Parker and Ginobli’s game is flopping and getting awy with it late in games. The rest of the NBA teams saw how they get away with it and try to bring attention to it by emulating it. These teams include the Heat. If the spurs stop the flop other teams will follow.

  • Dwillbtuff

    Im not a heat fan but for Labron not to get any foul calls and his game is driving to the hoop is obvious to me that the spurs are cherry picked to win the finals.

  • Bud Bundy

    the game has been rigged since the bulls vs heats in the playoffs. the refs are total liars. ive seen it for years. the refs are the ones in control not the players. the game is rigged by the refs. fire all of them and get trustworthy refs! the refs bid on games. ive seen it. they lie and dont look over plays when needed. they arent pros just gamblers.

  • Bud Bundy

    no team cheats. it’s the refs that are the cheaters.

  • Bud Bundy

    it was rigged

  • Bud Bundy

    the nba is a joke. they became wrestling. staged. lying refs to fouls and tossing players out. it’s like it’s staged. they did this on purpose.

  • bosshhowtime

    guess what the nba is awful the heat deserves no respect they are cheaters

  • kenny

    yes remember when the heat faced the thunder in 2011 2012 finals the heat had average of 10 freethrows a game more. even the NBA looked into the refs betting on the NBA by using there friends that year and go back and watch the games then you’ll see

  • Hello

    The refs are just the henchmen. The refs dont get fired because the NBA wants them to make the calls they do. Don’t just hate on the refs, hate on the NBA.

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