Tim Donaghy's story: Ex-NBA ref says he didn't need to fix games

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.”

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Tim Donaghy

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.

Tim Donaghy

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.

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Posted by Paulie8arms
4 years ago

The Association is more worried about ratings and sneakers than gamblers, hence known gambler Charles Barkley working away with his well documented issues of "not being able to pick winners" each and every night on TNT. The referees have control of games in all professional sports and are always beyond public accusations by players and teams. Mark Cuban seems to make a donation for that each and every year. As for the Spurs and small market teams in all sports that win championships against,"all odds" bravo to them. Certain teams DO have to overcome referees and generous calls, they just end up making more plays more shots and earn the wins that are too obvious to "fix". The NBA was more pissed at Tim Donaghy for giving up "inside information" than gambling. The Kobe and 22/25 ratio if you will. Looking back the Kings-Lakers was curious, and I am a Laker fan. Stars have been getting treatment in the NBA forever. Just like the Atlanta pitchers and their Cable network seemed to get "the corners" on all of those outside pitches and the absolute FACT that not a single fan or gambler or Tom Brady had ever heard of the "Tuck Rule" before that very cold night in Foxboro. Hey Presidential Elections are fixed too ! Not many folks knew what a "Chad" was until Al Gore went down to W. Just happened to happen in W's brother h state of Florida.. In essence the only problem about "The Fix" is when your team and or action is backing the wrong side...gamblers beware !!! You are playing 2 teams in every game. Refs and the side or total !
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Posted by SHARPIE77
4 years ago

I am not saying all or most games are fixed, I believe there are two major types of fixes, the small ones that envolve low controversy bets such as game totals, team totals or some prop bets, and book fixes which are more obvious that envolve ML, spreads and screwing the public on a major scale.
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Posted by SHARPIE77
4 years ago

I am not saying all or most games are fixed, I believe there are two major types of fixes, the small ones that envolve low controversy bets such as game totals, team totals or some prop bets, and book fixes which are more obvious that envolve ML, spreads and screwing the public on a major scale.
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Posted by SHARPIE77
4 years ago

My opinion on him is he is an was always an outside player either to sloppy or not connected to be a part of a well organized fix that envolves more than one or two parties which is reality in any event that is wagered on.
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Posted by CalBear
4 years ago

Donaghy, you are still in denial. If you expect us to believe the only cheating you've done is using inside info to your advantage that is laughable. Your two examples about AI and Kobe are pathetic to say the least. This info may have played a small role in your gambling, but to say this was the only cheating you've done is just outrages. This interview and your public outcry is all to try and paint a pretty picture for your cheating. You want the perception that "you didn't fix a game" but that is hog wash. You forever will be the ref who got caught fixing games, so don't try and soften it up because nobody is buying it.
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Posted by billyloco
4 years ago

Donaghy has ruined his own life, but blames others, he is a LOSER!!
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Posted by troy9828
4 years ago

im not saying an NBA game has never been fixed, just saying expand your perspective on the problematic situation, we are not his laywer, bookie, or co-worker so how can you believe in the majority of his acquisitions he brings to the table.
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Posted by troy9828
4 years ago

Donaghy's credibilility is a big time matter, he has accused dozens of past co-workers and collegues and has no evidence to back it up... Now im not saying the league has not possibly been the problem though, im just saying, with all the people he has turned on in the past, whos to say many of the things he claims are true. I am not defending the league by any matter but how can you believe ever damn word that comes out of his mouth. Nothing has been proven. Broaden your view on the situation a bit, do you work for the NBA or play in the games?? We are not seeing the issues first hand. (not referring to officaiated games)
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Posted by slochops
4 years ago

The most intelligent response on this post has come from (tallguy indc). I have no interest in person Bavetta's innocence or guilt or well being. The statistical analysis shows that during Donaghy's betting period (2003-2007) Bavetta's games involved as many blowouts as there was close games. This fact brings Donaghy's claims into question, as does his Steve Javie anti-Iverson rant, which has proven to carry no weight during the same period. I don't jump on conspiracy theories easily because so many can be disproved. I've been betting in Las Vegas sports books for 31 years - I've heard every fix conspiracy known to man. Yes, it is entirely possible other referees could be involved or have been, but to suspect it is different than having empirical evidential proof. I debunked many fix conspiracy claims in my first email. 1) Explain the small market Spurs winning so many championships if it's only fixed for large markets? Explain no Lebron-Kobe matchup if it's only about the money. If you are going to make a claim, then have a sampling of evidence that far exceeds random chance. Somebody on these posts claims that because Kobe hit a last second shot last night against Toronto it proves the NBA fixes it for last second shots by star players and large markets. Has anyone noticed that the NFL has failed to put a team in Los Angeles for twenty years? If it's only about the money at all times, then why hasn't that happened? My point is, there are many fallacies of the human thought process that create stories to justify your point of view. Most conspiracy theories in life can be debunked with the proper understanding of how and why they are formed in the first place. A gamblers view is going to be distorted. The internal dialogue protects itself from the truth for self preservation. According to Occam's Razor - the simplist answer is usually the most correct.
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Posted by JHBuff25
4 years ago

Well slochops, I can "Explain the small market Spurs winning so many championships if it's only fixed for large markets? Explain no Lebron-Kobe matchup if it's only about the money." quite easily. If you don't think the NBA and members therein make just as much money from sneakers you are delusional. Kobe-Lebron matchup inevitably makes one of them a loser and this is BAD FOR BUSINESS. Why do you think it takes years to arrange a decent title fight in any sport? No one wants to risk the potential losses. NBA is no different. And "small market" Popovich is on the rules committee, i.e. hiring and firing refs in a circuitous way. Don't expect the refs to get tough on the Spurs any time soon. What's more, the Spurs get the privilege of playing David Stern's most hated team, the Mavs quite frequently. The enemy of my enemy is my friend...a fact capitalized upon in several playoff meetings.
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Posted by ChefERD
4 years ago

troy...... i don't think this is a matter of credibility....... clearly he has no credibility....... that is not the point! if you are going to be so utterly blind and ignorant that you assume EVERYONE ELSE IS INNOCENT just because this guy is a proven scumbag, then i consider you to be just as much a part of the problem as the slimeballs fixing the games...... turning the a blind (or dumb) eye is a BIG part of this problem......
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Posted by ChefERD
4 years ago

Hey SLOCHOPS! are you Bavetta's attorney? i've never read a bigger pile of bullshit than what you wrote to try to defend these guys........ this is your quote: "Dlck Bavetta is a company man who like to keep games close". this is the REAL quote: "everyone knew that Bavetta would be on the court in Game 6. He was a company man through and through.” only a scumbag lawyer would change the quote in order to support his argument........ you are full of garbage!
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Posted by lvexpert41
4 years ago

NBA is still fixed today. This is the only sport I limit my betting, mainly because it can be fixed at any time. I am so GLAD he wrote that book. NBA, stop fixing all your games!
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Posted by tallguyindc
4 years ago

"He also claims -- and remember it's just his word -- that he was picking winners at 70-80 percent BEFORE he made the decision to bet on games that he himself worked. " This is really a major part of my point. There is no proof whatsoever, outside of Donaghy's word that he actually made 70-80%. We'll never know because we can't investigate that stat. People did investigate some of the other "stats" that he threw out there and he proved to be mistaken on many different counts. People's memories play tricks on them. Compulsive gamblers have notoriously bad memories. For some reason, they seem to remember all the wins and they convince themselves of reasons why the losses shouldn't really count. Quite a few people on here claim to win an impossibly large number of games. Even the Covers staff does it. Look at the Parlay article on the main page. In 2007, they wrote an article that quoted their 61% 2003 NFL percentage and then proceeded to make other calculations based on a 61% expectation moving forward. If you ask a gambler his winning percentage, he might rephrase the question into "Find the best subset of your entire career. What was your winning percentage during that narrow period?" Sometimes they don't even realize they are doing it. I'm saying that if Donaghy kept thorough records and you had an accountant go through with a detailed audit, you would almost certainly find that he won far less than 70-80% ATS. He didn't and we'll never know but I take a lot of what he says with a huge grain of salt.
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Posted by icenuck
4 years ago

Anyone catch Lakers/Raps last night? supports this story perfectly.
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Posted by Spreadsheet
4 years ago

Hello all, Author here. One thing some posters here are missing is that many of the games that Donaghy claims to have bet on were NOT officiated by him. He claims that the 70-80 percent success rate in picking ATS pertained to both games that he officiated as well as games that he did not work. So even if you don't believe him when he says he didn't throw games, there is still the issue of picking winners in games he did NOT work. He also claims -- and remember it's just his word -- that he was picking winners at 70-80 percent BEFORE he made the decision to bet on games that he himself worked. There is no breakdown available for his success rate ATS regarding games he bet on and worked, and games he bet on and didn't work. Thank you to everyone for reading and thanks for all the comments, positive or otherwise.
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Posted by troy9828
4 years ago

ChefERD- i think we all got the point of the whole article, but cd329 is right, how can this guy say he never fixed a game when hes in prison for it, claiming he hit 70-80% of his games and didn't need the help. the guy is full of lies, hes a crook, came out with a book cause he knew people like us would buy it (im not). I would say 75% of what he says is NOT credible. Put this together: NBA ref, gambled on games he officiated, claims he hit 70-80% when his officiating had nothing to do with the outcome, Hes in prison. Turns on the league because he is caught for publicity so his book will sell. Let me say this again, he claims he hit almost 80%, thats right 80%, how many of you one here hit 80%, let alone over a course of that many years!! And without making favorable calls! Cmon...bigtime lies. No one can say what exactly he said is true or not. I beleive some of the things he says could be true, but i would disregard most of it. He told covers he hit 80% and didn't fix a game!!! I think we can all put that together and realize the guy is full of lies.
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Posted by legwand
4 years ago

It is hard to believe that him having money on the game would not affect his refereeing. It would have to. How could you have a lot of money riding on a game and have that much control over the outcome and not call it in your favor?
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Posted by hisnameisme
4 years ago

As soon as all of this Donaghy stuff started coming out, and there was finally some hard proof to back-up what I've always suspected, I started getting much more into referee stats. Thankfully, covers.com does a pretty nice job of laying out the daily ref. assignments along with each refs statistics, and now my bets are almost purely based on the referees (and wouldn't you know that the biggest money maker for me is person "muthafuckin" Bavetta! Go figure!). My motto is, "As a bettin' man, I love that the game is fixed, just as long as I know which way they're fixin' it!"
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Posted by Borat38
4 years ago

All I want to know is, how can I contact Donaghy? I will make all the bets and he can be my consultant for an occassional "tip". That ain't betting, strictly speaking, is it? LOL.
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Posted by GamblrzAnonyms
4 years ago

of course the fbi and nba is gona say he didnt fix any games to help himself because then every1 is gona flip out and want the games not to count or sum other bs... they want this covered up as much as he does cause it makes all of them look bad and make people not wana watch the nba or bet on it for that matter.
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Posted by tallguyindc
4 years ago

Yeah, a whole lot of the "trends" that Donaghy says he was betting on have been backtested by statisticians and thoroughly debunked. I'm not exactly sure I'm buying his credibility. There is a good article by Phil Birnbaum that questions whether he really made the 70-80% he said he did. Bottom line: Even if you knew a ref's hidden grudges, it would be impossible to have that much of an edge. The ref couldn't make a large amount of phantom calls without it becoming patently obvious. A couple of calls isn't enough to have that much of a swing on the game. I do believe that Donaghy was a deadbeat. I do take his allegations seriously. But I also tend to think we are listening to another compulsive gambler who greatly exaggerates his winning record. http://sabermetricresearch.blogspot.com/search?q=donaghy
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Posted by slochops
4 years ago

There is no question this guy got away with using inside info to pick winners, but that is far different from fixing games. Did Donaghy fix games? Possibly. Although several of Donaghy's statements can be contradicted - Between 2003 -2007, games involving ref Steve Javie and Iverson (who Donaghy said disliked Iverson) ended up 7 wins and 6 losses - not exactly a trend to put any serious money on. Donaghy - "person Bavetta is a company man who like to keep games close". Again not true, 50% of Bavetta's games between 2003 and 2007 were blowouts. No edge there in taking a large dog. The guy is full of garbage over and over. "The NBA likes only large market teams to go 7 games?" Again not true in regards to any trend. Do you believe the NBA wanted the Lakers and medium market Orlando in the finals? Are you nuts? Well, not much of a fix there huh? No Lebron in the finals? Where's the fix there? Obviously Nike's million dollar puppet ad campaign didn't pay off. How do you explain that if the fix is in? Small market San Antonio has won the championship 6 or 7 times in the last 15 years? How do you explain that if the fix is in on favoring large (big money) markets? Many NBA finals have not gone 7 games. How many times over the years have you heard a gambler that is losing say "the fix is in" by certain players? Now it seems there are no players anywhere involved. If you were wrong then, why would you be right now? If you really believe the fix is always in, then why would you be dumb enough to bet on the NBA?
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Posted by GolfNGrind
4 years ago

does this really surprise anyone?
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Posted by Spursman
4 years ago

This isn't the first time he's talked about this..,,,://deadspin.com/5392030/the-book-the-nba-doesnt-want-you-to-read Thi s should make you sick as well... Bavetta has liver spots on his head and calls games! This is the same guy who t'eed up Tim Duncan for laughing on the bench a few years ago while looking the other way, only during a crucial moment of the game. a lot is two words, a lot.
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Top Response

Posted by ChefERD
4 years ago

"i love how Donaghy calls Bavetta a "company man, through and through"...... i have been calling Bavetta a company man for almost 10 years....... how obvious can it be when you have a guy who clearly can't see more than 10 or 15 feet, misses..."