NBA Roundtable

Donaghy’s Book

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2009 at 10:45 pm

ESPN reports that the publication of Donaghy’s book has been canceled.

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy’s tell-all book has been canceled by Triumph Books and parent company Random House, the publisher said.

“Blowing the Whistle: The Culture of Fraud in the NBA” was slated for publication later this month. The book was to have covered Donaghy’s experience as an NBA referee and the events leading up to his conviction on federal wire fraud charges.

During the process of editing and vetting the manuscript, which Triumph received from Donaghy in the spring, Random House and its imprint made the joint decision to cancel the book out of “concerns over potential liability,” according to an e-mail from a Triumph representative.

But Deadspin.com has a few excerpts for us to flick through though:

To have a little fun at the expense of the worst troublemakers, the referees working the game would sometimes make a modest friendly wager amongst themselves: first ref to give one of the bad boys a technical foul wouldn’t have to tip the ball boy that night. In the NBA, ball boys set up the referees’ locker room and keep it stocked with food and beer for the postgame meal. We usually ran the kid ragged with a variety of personal requests and then slipped him a $20 bill. Technically, the winner of the bet won twice-he didn’t have to pay the kid and he got to call a T on Mr. Foul-Mouthed Big-Shot Du Jour.

We had another variation of this gag simply referred to as the “first foul of the game” bet. While still in the locker room before tip-off, we would make a wager on which of us would call the game’s first foul. That referee would either have to pay the ball boy or pick up the dinner tab for the other two referees. Sometimes, the ante would be $50 a guy. Like the technical foul bet, it was hilarious-only this time we were testing each other’s nerves to see who had the guts to hold out the longest before calling a personal foul. There were occasions when we would hold back for two or three minutes-an eternity in an NBA game-before blowing the whistle. It didn’t matter if bodies were flying all over the place; no fouls were called because no one wanted to lose the bet.

I became so good at this game that if an obvious foul was committed right in front of me, I would call a travel or a three-second violation instead. Those violations are not personal fouls, so I was still in the running to win the bet. The players would look at me with disbelief on their faces as if to say, “What the hell was that?”

Some information on Dick Bavetta

That very first time Jack and I bet on an NBA game, Dick was on the court. The team we picked lost the game, but it covered the large point spread and that’s how we won the money. Because of the matchup that night, I had some notion of who might win the game, but that’s not why I was confident enough to pull the trigger and pick the other team. The real reason I picked the losing team was that I was just about certain they would cover the spread, no matter how badly they played. That is where Dick Bavetta comes into the picture.

From my earliest involvement with Bavetta, I learned that he likes to keep games close, and that when a team gets down by double-digit points, he helps the players save face. He accomplishes this act of mercy by quietly, and frequently, blowing the whistle on the team that’s having the better night. Team fouls suddenly become one-sided between the contestants, and the score begins to tighten up. That’s the way Dick Bavetta referees a game-and everyone in the league knew it.

Fellow referee Danny Crawford attended Michael Jordan’s Flight School Camp years ago and later told me that he had long conversations with other referees and NBA players about how Bavetta propped up weak teams. Danny told me that Jordan himself said that everyone in the league knew that Bavetta cheated in games and that the players and coaches just hoped he would be cheating for them on game night.

Now, who knows which of his stories are true and which aren’t … but it’s interesting reading nonetheless.

Anyway, there’s a lot more of Donaghy’s stories at Deadspin. It’s worth scanning through.

Update: The NBA has responded to Donaghy’s claims. They deny them — as far as the FBI has already investigated and found them to be false — and say they’ll investigate Donaghy’s claims themselves.

Update: The League has banned referees from offering tips to locker room attendants or anybody like that. Now there is a reaction. Good decision too.

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