The NBA: Sport or Entertainment

Growing up I had some friends who were into the WWF (now the WWE); I never liked it. I had a difficult time wrapping my head around a “sport” that was dramatized/scripted. It was even tougher for me to hear my friends and others refer to the WWE as sport. The definition of sport according to Webster is, “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature” (Webster Dictionary). The minute you script something in a sport you’re impeding on the integrity of that particular game/event. At that point it’s no longer a sport, just another form of entertainment.

There’s one professional sport in particular that seems to be (or already has) veering towards that method of entertainment, the NBA.

The NBA was in the midst of a scandal almost a decade ago when disgraced referee Brain Donaghy was arrested and later charged with participating in a gambling scandal. Donaghy became the whistle blower who informed the public that the NBA had fixed games in the past in order to boost ratings; he referenced Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings as an example. Donaghy alleged that

Donaghy is a disgrace for gambling on the games, but that doesn’t make his allegations any less legitimate. It’s been known (or at least basketball fans are aware) that referee’s give “superstar” calls to some players and not others. Just with that information alone, how can the NBA legitimize their game? Game officials are supposed to be objective not subjective. If officials are giving certain players an advantage over others, that’s going to give the players or the team(s) that don’t have a superstar a huge disadvantage.

If you watch the NBA you know exactly what I’m talking about. Stars like Lebron James and James Harden (to name a few) are going to get calls that Tyler Zeller (Celtics) and Langston Galloway (Knicks) won’t. That’s ridiculous. Like it or not, fouls change the outcomes of games; which again brings me to my point of how the NBA loses credibility (at least in my eyes) with the public knowledge that their officials are subjective when making calls. It also lends itself to the possibility that the refs are instructed who to foul and when in order to make the game(s) more entertaining.

Just for a quick example. When Lebron went to the Heat, most people in (and outside) the league hated him for doing it. The Indiana Pacers quickly became the team that wanted to knock them off their pedestal more than any other. During the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons, their paths always crossed in the playoffs; which made for great theater. Interestingly enough, the Heat won every one of those matchups even though in their first series, Indiana seemed to have all the momentum on their side. What happened? The officials happened. Game 4 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals was a must-win game for the Heat; if they lost they’d be down 3 games to 1 with very little chance to win the series. The Pacers came out guns blazing and then all of sudden the Heat started getting every call. The Heat ended up winning that series and eventually the title.

I watched that series very closely and the Pacers had the Heats number; everyone could see it. The Heat not making it to the Finals was not an outcome the NBA wanted. They knew they would get higher viewership if the Heat instead of the Pacers. I’m not saying the officials were the only reason why Miami ended up winning the series and ultimately the title that year, but they were definitely a factor.  

I realize that there isn’t a shred of proof to back up my claims but I really believe that I’m on to something; and I know that I’m not the first person to believe that the NBA is scripted.

If you’re a diehard fan of the NBA then the previous paragraphs probably mean nothing to you because you’ll defend the league to death. You’ll write me off as a cynic or a conspiracy theorist that’s just trying to make waves. However, just take a moment and think back over the last few years and how the NBA playoffs turned out. More times than not the best possible matchups took place and many of those “premier matchups” went 6-7 games. It’s not completely out of the realm of possibilities to think that the NBA has an agenda and uses its officials to help implement said agenda.  Money talk, and if certain teams are going to help the NBA make more money, who’s to say that they’re not going to try and push those teams in a certain direction to increase their revenue?

There have been whispers for some time that NBA could be fixed however the story always seems to die out just as quickly as it was created. The rumors and whispers might be unsubstantiated claims, but given the fact that they do exist, shouldn’t there be more investigating and less mudslinging towards those who are seeking the truth?

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