As David Stern inches closer to retirement each passing day, his legacy is beginning to look less like a quality commissioner and more like Vince McMahon in an ugly disguise.
Four times this season the Toronto Raptors have been flat out robbed by NBA officials only for the league to say sorry and pretend like everything is alright. The unacceptable and flat out pathetic officiating in Raptor games is no longer appearing like coincidence and starting to look like a conspiracy against the Toronto franchise.
It was bad enough when the Raptor fan base had to put up with multiple non-calls on clear fouls during the game, but now the non-calls are costing them THE game. What does Stern and the NBA do about it? “Sorry, our bad.” Meanwhile nothing changes, the Raptors still take the loss and the same thing happens a week later.
Four, that is the amount of times poor officiating has directly had a result on the outcome late in a Raptors game.
Wed, Nov. 21 Against the Charlotte Bobcats:
Andrea Bargnani gets punched in the hands in the final 16 seconds during a jump shot and the ball nearly rolls off the back of the defender. No call was made as apparently, the officials thought the arc on Bargnani’s jump shot only goes about a foot above most players’ foreheads. Toronto loses 98-97.
Wed, Jan. 16 Against the Chicago Bulls:
Amir Johnson drives to the basket with four seconds left, leaps in the air for a lay-up, gets pulled back down to the floor while throwing the ball up at the rim. The officials call a foul but say Johnson was passing the ball that hit the net and therefore it was a foul on the floor. Johnson loses the opportunity to go the free-throw line and tie the game, Toronto loses 107-105 in overtime. If throwing the ball at the net now counts as a pass then I guess Kobe Bryant really is the league’s new best playmaker.
Fri, Jan. 18 Against the Philadelphia 76ers:
Yes, two days later after perhaps the saddest excuse for a call, the officials showed no mercy once again against the Raptors. In the final minute Alan Anderson jumped to catch an inbounds pass and was pushed out of bounds by Nick Young. Officials called Anderson out and it was 76ers ball. Apparently the officials thought Anderson’s game plan to tie the game was jump up, catch the ball, and land in the front row head first. Interesting strategy, clearly the official standing six feet away staring at Young’s two hands in Anderson’s back must have thought the same thing. After the 76ers sunk free-throws to seal it, the Raptors fell 108-101 in overtime.
Then there was last night against the Atlanta Hawks:
DeMar DeRozan grabs an offensive rebound with maybe three seconds left in the contest, jumps up to put the ball in the basket and is whacked by about three Atlanta players. In fact, if you watch the replay DeRozan is hardly visible given all the Hawks colors that surround him. The most noticeable offender was Al Horford who nailed DeRozan better than any Atlanta Falcon hit anybody in the second half of the NFC Championship game. Once again, no call was made and Toronto lost 93-92.
Dwane Casey nearly blew a gasket and all the credit in the world to him for not completely losing it against the officials. The amount of BS the second-year coach has had to endure is undoubtedly putting the league’s creditability in question. Basketball fans in Canada are now asking themselves if they are watching the NBA or the pre-determined sports entertainment product known as the WWE.
The league has already had one match-fixing scandal in the past ten years, so it’s not like they can even pretend it doesn’t exist. Especially when the only guy that was caught, said he wasn’t the only one doing it yet the league insisted he was. Right, because those with the power to influence fixing games were only able to approach one guy and tempt him with financial advantages.
Raptor fans have heard every excuse in the book when it comes to not receiving a call:
“The road team doesn’t get that call late in a game.” Sure, because the Miami Heat have never once gotten away with anything outside Miami.
“You have to earn a reputation with the officials.” Or “A rookie doesn’t get that call.”
Listen, this isn’t about ticky tack love taps that are easily excused for play-on situations. This is about blatant contact that results in the player’s body clearly being altered during the shot attempt.
Some will defend Stern and the league and simply say that is just the way it is. Players have to earn their right to receive calls. So, little things like the rules don’t matter anymore?
If it is actually common knowledge and league-wide accepted that: An official watches the play judging the contact but more importantly, the player, and then decides to determine if it is a foul or not, than how in the heavens is that not match-fixing? Where is the rule being applied in that scenario? It’s not a judgement call based on who’s involved in the play, if its a foul – its a foul.
That is the rule. If you don’t follow the rule, then you are breaking the rule, and if you are breaking the rule, you are being dishonest. This isn’t Judge Judy, even though many wish it was because even some of the people on Judy’s show have more credibility then these officials. No other major sport has such grey-area in terms of their officiating, allowing things to slide for some players but not for others.
Officials cannot allow a superstar like LeBron James to get a call after contact in one situation, but a lesser-known DeRozan doesn’t receive the same call. It ruins the entire integrity of the sport. Yet it happens all the time, directly impacting game after game.
Why does it happen?
Because its better business for LeBron to put up big numbers and continue his reputation as a superstar than it is for DeRozan , a guy hardly known outside the Atlantic Division, to have a big game. After all, what sells more newspapers and magazines across North America, DeRozan’s big game? Or LeBron’s?
How is that any different than the WWE deciding its better business for The Rock to win his fight over some mid-card wrestler? It’s not, because just like LeBron will sell ratings, The Rock will sell ratings, draw attention to the product and move merchandise.
At this point, it’s no longer about the sport of basketball because what have fans been told since day one and after every trade? It’s a business.
So Stern might as well book LeBron vs. Kobe as the headline to Wrestlemania now, because we all know we’ll magically get there anyway.