Basketball fans all over the country and the world are preparing for the start of the NBA Finals match-up between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers tonight. The NBA has focused the build-up to this finals match-up as a clash of two of the most storied and successful franchises in professional basketball, in the hope that casual fans will focus on the on-court action and not building off-court questions concerning gambling.
Since last summer the NBA has had to deal with a variety of questions concerning the integrity of the game when it was found that referee Tim Donaghy was betting on games he officiated and affecting the point spread of those games. According to Wikipedia:
Tim Donaghy is a former professional basketball referee who worked in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 13 seasons from 1994 to 2007. During his career in the NBA, Donaghy officiated in 772 regular-season games and 20 playoff games. Donaghy resigned from the league on July 9, 2007 prior to reports of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegations that he bet on games that he officiated during his last two seasons and that he made calls affecting the point spread in those games. On August 15, 2007, Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to the investigation. However, he could face more charges at the state level if it is determined that he deliberately miscalled individual games.
While ESPN reports that Donaghy has cooperated with Federal officials investigating the matter, the NBA stills seems to have public opinion problem on their hands. Just a couple of weeks ago it was publicized that former NBA star and current TV basketball analyst Charles Barkely had not repaid gambling debts of approximately $400,000. Ken Berger of Newsday states:
Amid all this made-for-TV excitement, a pesky cloud continues to hang over David Stern and his league. The dark cloud of gambling.
A convicted felon named Tim Donaghy – and to a lesser degree, a gambler in arrears named Charles Barkley – continue to poison Stern’s otherwise happy vision of the NBA.
Barkley has since apologized on national television for the effect this gambling debt has had on him and his family, including a promise to not gamble anymore in the foreseeable future.
The hope for all basketball fans is that the NBA continue to deal with the Tim Donaghy situation in an open and cooperative manner to ensure that future problems of this nature don’t arise and that the integrity of the game is no longer called into question. The bottom line is that the NBA finals like any other basketball game should be enjoyed for the thrill and accomplishments of the athletes on the court and not the wagers made off the court.
Associated Press story on Charles Barkley