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Tim Donaghy and the NBA: A Tale of Two Losers (part 2)

Tim Donaghy basketball referee

Donaghy had much to say about himself and the NBA.

Before the scandal that rocked U.S gambling news, Tim Donaghy made a call that resulted in him being threatened by NBA star Rasheed Wallace. A year later, he would be involved in the “Malice in the Palace”; a brawl between players and attendees which resulted in the suspension of nine players for a combined 146 games.

Malice Palace 2010

Although he had his problems, nobody would have guess what would come next from Donaghy.

• Ten times the point spread moved 1.5 points games Donaghy officiated
• Donaghy predicted higher than Vegas sportsbooks predicted 57% of the time’
• Donaghy wrote “Blowing in Whistle: The Culture of Fraud in the NBA

A year after the fight, the 13-year NBA referee had heavy debts from his gambling addiction. As a result Donaghy started to place tens of thousands of dollars on NBA games. After being approached by mafia associates, Donaghy got caught up in betting on games he officiated in order to control the point spreads. Once the FBI investigated, Donaghy resigned and was sentence to prison.

Donaghy involvement in match fixing

Once Donaghy decided to work with the authorities, probably for a lighter sentence, a bit more was revealed about his actions. Through additional research, it was discovered that at least 10 times the point spread moved 1.5 points or more before the start of a game which indicates the wagering of large amounts of money. Donaghy himself bet on these games along with Thomas Martino and James Batista, a sports bar owner.

Brandon Lang, a handicapper told ESPN that it is simple for official to fix games with possibility to control the outcome 75% of the time and it could take years for anyone to even notice what happened. Based on the difficulty in catching this activity, it’s more than likely and insider like a bookie connected to the mafia informed the FBI about Donaghy.

Tim Donaghy court sentence

In a Federal court in Brooklyn, Donaghy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud, which falls under U.S gambling laws. Donaghy sent information about games using coded language to conceal player’s physical condition and player referee relations. When he started wagering, Donaghy received USD 2,000 for each correct pick which quickly rose to USD 5,000 because of his accuracy.

Using two middle men he went to high school with, Donaghy was able to pass information through them. Donaghy was in between two prosecutions, the NBA and the Federal government. Both entities wanted to punishment on Donaghy. Although Federal court fined Donaghy USD 500,000, the NBA said he owed USD 1.4 million various expenses including over USD 500,000 for his pay and benefits for four seasons.

The NBA’s possible wrongdoings and Donaghy’s prison time

It seemed as though the NBA wanted to punish Donaghy for more than just his crimes, but for possibly exposing their “questionable” activity. In 2008, Donaghy’s attorney filed a document claiming allegations against illicit practices in the NBA. The document stated that Donaghy said “top executives of the NBA sought to manipulate games using referees” in order to increase television viewership and ticket sales. Something that online sportsbooks in the U.S should consider.

Other offences included NBA official ordering referees not to call technical fouls on key players. One of the major games that were fixed was the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. Learning that two others wanted to extend the series to seven games, Donaghy reported that the men were dedicated workers who “always acted in the interest of the company and it was in the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series.”

Due to the referee calls, the Lakers took 18 free throws allowing them to win. Donaghy, Battista and Martino were each sentenced to 15 months in prison. Former NBA commissioner David Stern revised the guidelines for NBA referee behavior in 2007 which lessoned restrictions on gambling, counseling on gambling and more thorough background checks. Also, referees names wouldn’t be announced the morning of games in order to limit valuable information that could be given to gamblers.

While in Federal Prison, Donaghy wrote “Blowing in Whistle: The Culture of Fraud in the NBA” which included his involvement in the criminal underworld during the scandal, his methods of predicting games and the relationships between players, coaches and referees. The original publisher, Triumph Books cancelled the contract after the NBA threatened legal action. Eventually it was published by a new publisher under the title “Personal Foul: a First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA.”

While in prison, Donaghy was attacked by individuals sent through the mafia. Although he suffered knee injuries, the attack was reported to authorities but handled internally. Under Central Inmate Monitoring, Donaghy was soon released. Later he sued VT-i Group for not paying him royalties for his memoir. The court ordered the publishing company to pay Donaghy USD 1.3 million for breach of contract.

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