Let me come clean right off the bat. NBA officiating is mostly fantastic.
I know, that brands me idiot or heretic. But since the NBA came to Oklahoma City in 2005, I’ve been blessed to sit virtually courtside for more than 200 games.
And when people ask why NBA officiating is so bad, I ask, how is NBA officiating so good? How do these guys discern between whether to blow the whistle or which way to blow it, literally every three seconds? How do they get so many calls correct when big, fast men continually collide at angles rarely conducive to a great view?
Occasionally, you’ll see a dud game or a dud ref. But a game that’s nigh near impossible to call somehow gets well-called night after night, year after year.
Which is why people like Sean Heath drive me nuts.
Heath is the Dallas Mavericks public-address announcer who tweeted out a series of rants after the Mavs lost to Golden State on April 1. Yes, the NBA later admitted, Jermaine O’Neal’s block of Monta Ellis’ shot with 16 seconds left should have been goal-tending. Yes, the Mavs should have taken a two-point lead. And when the Warriors’ Steph Curry nailed a basket at the buzzer, Dallas was handed a loss it perhaps didn’t deserve.
An unfortunate series of events. Not the 1972 Olympic basketball final. Not Colorado scoring on a fifth down. The refs that night had a tough call, made the call, play continued, the Warriors won and later it was determined the call should have gone Dallas’ way. Welcome to sports. Welcome to life.
Except people take defeat personally. One of Heath’s tweets proclaimed: “NBA, the ONLY professional league in the US with the reputation that the games are rigged. Know why? Because of games like tonight.”
The persecution complex of some people is a little overwhelming. Blaming officiating is for losers. Claiming officiating conspiracies is for the simple-minded.
Various reports say NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted to suspend Heath from his microphone duties but settled for a $25,000 fine levied against the Mavs. Heath is not a full-time Maverick employee, so suspension would have been legally squishy.
Too bad. Silver’s thoughts are solid. Suspension would have been good. Banishment would have been better. Anyone who believes the NBA rigs games should not be involved with the league. Anyone who promotes the belief needs to move on down the road.
It’s asinine that NBA people can keep talking about rigged games and fixed results. They are damaging the league’s reputation much more than a missed call. Much more than 100 missed calls.
O’Neal’s block was a bang-bang play. Most NBA plays are. There were two dozen in the Thunder-Pacers game Sunday. You’ve got to accept that some go your way, some don’t. To micromanage every whistle destroys the sport.
And we’ve got to get past the idea that some NBA conspiracy exists against certain teams.
While it’s possible that a rogue referee or player might conspire to fix a game, for financial reasons or diabolical reasons or simply because they’re certifiably insane, it is not possible that the NBA office would condone such actions in some kind of secret star chamber.
It is not possible that the NBA would rig a game or the draft lottery. It’s silly to think the league would compromise its credibility for the Lakers or the Knickerbockers or some other mega-market franchise, just to appease the television networks that would benefit from greater ratings and more advertising revenue.
The cost is too great. The benefit of a big-market franchise success is dwarfed by the potential risk if the plot is uncovered. If an NBA/television conspiracy comes to light, the league is finished. Banished to the fringes of boxing, a sport which once ruled American minds but now is trusted by few.
Stupid people make financially risky decisions. Smart people do not. Men with lots of money do not risk it all to make a little.
I know it’s gut-wrenching to lose a tight game. I know the Mavericks operate in a culture in which owner Mark Cuban combats the NBA at every opportunity. I know people get on Twitter with no clue of the ramifications.
But the NBA should not tolerate people who promote the idea that the NBA could be involved in a conspiracy.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.