Tim Donaghy was an NBA referee for 13 seasons before he resigned in 2007 a gambling scandal that dealt a severe blow to the credibility of the league. The league knew nothing of an FBI investigation into the betting habits of one of its officials until a column by Murray Weiss of the New York Post appeared in the June 20, 2007, edition. The league and the FBI met the following day and Donaghy resigned on July. 9, 2007. He entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce in August, 2007.
Donaghy bet on NBA games in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, including games that he officiated. Donaghy maintains that he never influenced a game with his calls, but as a referee had privileged “inside information” that helped him pick winners. He told a U.S. District Judge that he passed on information regarding the physical condition on players and player/referee relationships to gamblers, who paid him $2,000 per winning selection and eventually increased it to $5,000 per winner because he was doing so well.
Donaghy’s partners in the betting scandal were a pair of former classmates, Jimmy “Sheep” Bautista and Thomas Martino. Bautista, who nicknamed Donaghy “Elvis” because he “was as good as gold,” stated that they increased Donaghy’s fee because they were afraid he would go to other gamblers once he realized what a good thing they had going. Donaghy testified against his former partners and was sentenced to 15 months, the same as Bautista. Martino was sentenced to one year and one day.
In court papers Donaghy alleged that game-fixing was a regular occurrence in the NBA, although games were fixed for television ratings and to extend playoff series another game, not for the purpose of covering the point spread. Without mentioning it by name, he pointed to the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings as a series the league wanted to extend. The Kings had a 3-2 series lead, but in Game 6, the Lakers were the beneficiaries of numerous calls leading Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon to write, “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 one call that has drawn the most attention was when Kobe Bryant elbowed Mike Bibby directly in front of the officials. A foul was called – on Bibby. The Game 6 officiating was so bad that Ralph Nader called for a formal investigation. Sacramento’s Scot Pollard, who fouled out of the game, wasn’t going to go as far as Donaghy, but did say, “I’m not going to say there was a conspiracy. I just think something wasn’t right. It was unfair. We didn’t have a chance to win that game,” after hearing Donaghy’s allegations.
Donaghy is out of jail and involved in gambling activities now. While the league has done everything possible to discredit him, he simply won’t go away. He predicted that the league was going to fix games in the 2013-14 playoff series between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors in order for the Nets to advance to the next round against the Miami Heat because it would be good for ratings. Brooklyn won Game 7 104-103 after Toronto’s Amir Johnson, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, fouled out in the third quarter. The Heat vs. the Nets was one of the best-rated Eastern Conference series of the playoffs.