The recent controversy surrounding NBA referee Tim Donaghy must be excellent fodder for the conspiracy theorists out there. I’ve heard people complain for years that the NBA favors players or teams and “fixes” games. I don’t believe there is a conspiracy, but I see a few reasons why people do.
1. Superstar treatment – For years it has been obvious that certain players receive the benefit of calls an no calls. Some players can get a call just for standing next to someone who sneezes. Jordan’s famous game winning shot over the Jazz is a classic no call since Jordan pushed a man out of the way before shooting. Still, today’s stars get these same calls.
2. Rumors persist that Donaghy was a known problem for months. If this is true, and no hard evidence exists to suggest it is as of yet, the NBA cannot admit it. Allowing someone suspected of influencing games would be inexcusable and create suspicions possibly as large as those people have about the major leagues. David Stern must remain close-lipped about this; otherwise, he’ll have scandal no one can handle.
3. Home court advantages, which can be seen in the numbers, are given by referees. Home teams almost always average more free throws and favorable calls during games than their visiting foes. Check out the daily stats and see it for yourself. It’s always been a point of contention for me.
Donaghy probably did not change the victor in games but probably could have adjusted the margins and the total points scored. Since there are so many variables (injuries, player effort, time of year, etc.) that would make determining a game’s winner difficult, Donaghy probably influenced the margins of games and the total number of points–both of which gamblers bet heavily upon. Looking at fourth quarter numbers would seem to be the clues needed since this is where fouls add up and free throws accumulate. Were more fouls called during the 4th quarters of his games? Did more players foul out? Did more free throws get shot during 4th quarters?
I would also look to see how many points the lines changed before Donaghy officiated a game. If the lines moved substantially, major amounts of money were bet and investigators could see who won those games (and whether it was those betting over or under). Is there a consistency here?
Lastly, I would check to see how many total points were scored in games Donaghy officiated. Were those games close to the league average for total points cored? If they were not near the league average, were they always over or under?