Shaq and Charles Barkley joke about a lot of things on ‘Inside the NBA’, but recently their jokes took on a more controversial manner when they talked about ex-ref Tim Donaghy.
Donaghy is famously known for being the NBA referee that was affecting outcomes intentionally and betting on games, including those he was refereeing in.
Donaghy was eventually caught, and he served 15 months in prison where he gained perspective on what his actions meant in a grander sense. He published ‘Personal Foul’, a first-person account of his actions, diving deeper into the details of the scandal that shook the NBA.
Donaghy also used to take advantage of the way a particular referee crew felt about certain players to place smarter bets. For example, he exploited Allen Iverson by targetting him on travel calls in a Nuggets-76ers game which led to a $25,000 fine for Iverson after he had harsh comments about the officiating.
— JJ ☘️ (@JJ_Boston_) June 8, 2021
After the Warriors-Mavs first half in game two, Chuck, Shaq, and Kenny all had jokes about the officials, and it reached darker levels when Donaghy was alluded to.
Shaq and Charles Barkley joke about officiating in WCF
Donaghy’s biggest controversial act may have come in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. While Donaghy didn’t openly admit to doing anything to change the outcome of the series, he did admit to knowing that there were darker forces acting in the background.
The infamous game six of that series goes down in history as perhaps the most controversial NBA game of all time and maybe all of sports. The Kings were leading the series 3-2 and seemed to have an upper hand on the Lakers going into the fourth quarter. However, foul after foul doomed Sacramento.
Los Angeles wound up attempting 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter, and some of the calls were incredibly suspect. Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard both fouled out in that game as the Kings’ big men were consistently in foul trouble against a dominant Shaq.
Michael Wilbon, sports columnist for The Washington Post, said, “I wrote down in my notebook six calls that were stunningly incorrect, all against Sacramento, all in the fourth quarter when the Lakers made five baskets and 21 foul shots to hold on to their championship.”
The Lakers tied the series 3-3, and would win the game seven en-route to a third straight title. Later on, Donaghy admitted that he knew that there were particular referees in that game who were acting unfairly to force a game seven, catering towards the NBA’s best demands as they wanted to extend the series further.
Donaghy’s attorney would note, “[Tim] learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be ‘company men’, always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series.”
Kobe Bryant even acknowledged this fact when he was asked about the series in an interview, admitting that the referees may definitely have tried to impact the game. However, Kobe also justified the Lakers’ win by claiming that the Kings missed a large number of free-throws in game 7 which could have swung the game their way.
“Well, Tim Donaghy definitely had money on it,” Kobe said. “So, that’s a fact. So, from that standpoint, yes. But from the Kings missing 20-something free throws in Game 7 (shrugs). Unless you want us to check their bank account.”
Shaq and Chuck felt that they had seen some inadequate officiating in the first half of the Warriors-Mavs game two, and a joke or two later, and Tim Donaghy’s name was basically almost brought up.
It’s funny to laugh at now, but in the moment, the NBA had a real nightmare on their hands.