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.