Kobe Bryant believes that while disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy did influence their 2002 series against the Kings in their favor, they also dug their own grave.
There’s little doubt that the Tim Donaghy scandal was possibly the most earth-shattering, disturbing NBA news when it broke. The league had a huge PR nightmare in trying to mitigate the damage caused by it.
Many fans believe with full certainty that a few NBA Finals in the 00s were influenced by bookmakers in Las Vegas. They also cite the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the Sacramento Kings among those contests.
Donaghy himself was sentenced to 15 months in prison, following which he wrote a tell-all book detailing the circumstances of his time in the veritable flea market of betting.
Kobe Bryant himself had a huge role to play for the Lakers in that series. He was especially important in their comeback wins during Games 6 & 7 of the series, tallying 61 points and 21 rebounds combined.
Kobe Bryant makes a practical case for why despite Tim Donaghy refereeing, Lakers deserved their 2002 win
The Lakers legend was in an interview on The Corp with Alex Rodriguez a few months before his death in 2020. A-Rod proved to be an interviewer par excellence, framing the kind of excellent questions that allowed us insights into Kobe’s life.
Big Cat, meanwhile, played the role of an internet troll snooping in on the conversation for the most part. He did, however, ask some amazing questions – especially for a rapid fire round.
One of those had to do with whether or not the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals were rigged. Kobe answered in the affirmative, but also noted another crucial fact for the context:
“Well, Tim Donaghy definitely had money on it. 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.”
Did the Kings really miss 20 free throws?
A simple check for the box score reveals that the Kings were awarded 30 free throws in Game 7. They converted 16 of them, meaning that Kobe was, in fact, exaggerating for effect.
That game was, however, only decided by a 6-point margin at the end. One could argue that Vlade Divac, who fouled out while missing 5 of his own freebies, could’ve swung the game their way.
We may never know the true answer to whether or not the 2002 NBA championship was won on dubious grounds. But we do know that Kings fans will look back at that moment, forever peeved.