Tim Donaghy readily admits crossing a lot of gambling lines – betting in casinos even though it broke NBA rules, using inside information to place bets on NBA teams, even betting on games that he himself refereed. But Donaghy wants everyone to know that he never fixed a game.
“I know, I know,” he says now in answer to a question about the public’s perception of him. “But I zoned everything out and concentrated hard on just calling the game as I saw it. I know it doesn’t pass the laugh test – calling a clean game that I had money on. And it’s hard to sell that to people. But it’s the truth.”
If you’ve lost track of the NBA referee who went bad, Donaghy will tell you now that he is finally at peace with himself and trying to put his life back in order after spending 11 months in prison.
He is doing his best to repair the damage that his actions and subsequent incarceration did to his relationship with his four daughters.
He spends his time hawking his new book and gearing up for what he hopes will be his next career – warning college students about the dangers of compulsive gambling.
In a recent interview with Covers.com, Donaghy candidly discussed every aspect of his career as an NBA official, pressure that the league placed on officials to make sure superstars stayed in games, efforts to keep big-market teams alive in playoffs, and his own role in the betting scandal that caused many fans to believe – and many others to merely confirm – that not all games in the Association are completely on the up and up.
And as for games being fixed, while Donaghy proclaims he never made even a single call to help affect the betting line or outcome of a game, he also says that NBA had subtle ways of making sure that the teams it wanted to win, did indeed win.
“With David Stern it’s all about superstars and money,” said Donaghy. “He made the decision long ago to sell the league as entertainment. Only one team can win a title, but people will still come out to see a show. So a show is what Stern wants, and a show is what the referees help give the fans. So, did the NBA actually pre-determine the outcome of games? I guess it depends on how you define things.”
From the time referees are recruited and hired, says Donaghy, they are taught – in a subtle manner – that it is not in anyone’s interest for foul-plagued superstars to spend large amounts of time on the bench. Fans want to see LeBron James dunk, even if he has to take 4 steps to do it.
“If a little white guy from Seattle tried that, we called travel,” he says matter-of-factly. “Just the way things are in the NBA, and every official knows it.”
Every time a Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade gets away with a hand check, travels without getting called, pushes to get a rebound or gets away with cursing an official, the superstar’s team gets a huge advantage. Is that outright fixing, or just part of the show that Stern and the league bring to fans around the world?
Donaghy tells anyone who’ll listen that he didn’t need to fix games because of his inside information was so reliable. ESPN’s Outside the Lines did a great job reporting on the information Donaghy was talking about.