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The National Basketball Association (NBA) has faced a multitude of criticisms from both sports writers and fans.


Racial and cultural issues

Many have criticized the NBA for embracing "Hip-hop culture". While some observers have argued that this criticism has more to do with race than hip-hop itself, it is a fact that the league is very much connected to the hip-hop generation. Rappers Nelly and Jay-Z have ownership stakes in NBA teams (the Charlotte Bobcats and New Jersey Nets respectively), and many artists have worn NBA throwback jerseys in music videos. In turn, the NBA plays rap and hip-hop in arenas during games, and ABCESPN uses the music during its coverage. Players in the NBA have tried rap or hip hop themselves (Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, Allen Iverson, and Ron Artest are some examples) and several also dress and act in ways that are in accordance with hip-hop culture (for example, the tattoos and jewellery worn by several players).

This has helped build the league's popularity among what some would call "urban" circles, while hurting its credibility with corporate, white, middle-class, suburban audiences. Since 1998, the NBA's television ratings have dropped considerably (some also attribute this is to Michael Jordan's retirement and the decline of the Chicago Bulls), and criticism of the league has mounted to the point where some columnists have freely referred to players in the league as 'thugs' in columns and referred to the league as 'violent'.

Some have argued that the criticism of the NBA is hypocritical, considering the relative lack of criticism of Major League Baseball or National Football League players.[1][2]

While some columnists believe that the criticism of the league is based largely in racial and generational stereotypes and biases, others believe that the NBA put itself in such a position by not distancing itself from the darker aspects of hip-hop culture.[3][4]

Dress Code

Perhaps mainly because of criticism, the NBA instituted a dress code in 2005, banning all clothing associated with the hip-hop culture. Players were instructed not to wear jewelry, throwback jerseys, headphones, indoor sunglasses and other accessories, and instead were told to wear "business casual" clothing. The dress code, characterized by some as "clearly and unapologetically directed toward suppressing hip-hop culture"[5], was instantly controversial and a topic on many sports radio talk shows for several days. Many players objected, most notably Allen Iverson, who has faced the brunt of most hip-hop related NBA criticism.

Baggy shorts, also a symbol of hip-hop culture, were banned by the league as well, which instituted a rule on the length of players' shorts while playing. Tights, which players started to wear under their shorts in the 2005-06 season (though not a symbol of hip-hop culture) were banned as well. No players were fined for dress code violations during the 2005-06 NBA season. The league has also attempted to severely distance itself from hip-hop since the infamous Pacers–Pistons brawl in 2004; in the 2005 NBA All-Star Game, country music stars Big and Rich performed at halftime, a move that was ridiculed by TNT analyst and former NBA player Charles Barkley. In addition, as noted later in this article, ABC Sports (after relying on hip-hop music early on) has used artists such as Rob Thomas and Tom Petty for the NBA Finals in recent years.


Pacers–Pistons brawl

Ron Artest was frequently criticized after the Pacers–Pistons brawl.

After a massive altercation between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans, the NBA came under severe criticism from the national and mainstream media. Commentators, and those familiar with the event outside the sports media, were divided over the issues of who should primarily be blamed for the incident. Anger and blame was placed on the players, at NBA Union Chief Billy Hunter, who protested the length of suspensions,[6], the fans who sparked the melee and the referees who didn't put a stop to it [7].

Many in the media viewed the brawl as a statement on the disconnect between primarily white fans and black players. USA Today's Ian O'Connor:

Commentators are examining the widening gulf between overwhelmingly black NBA teams and the white fans who follow them. It's healthy to ask tough questions about the uneasy state of race relations in sports and beyond; the more these issues are addressed in public forums, the better the chance of not having to examine them in the future... Sometimes we see race when we should simply see foolishness and hate. That's the product of living inside a sports culture where equal opportunity on the coaching, executive and ownership levels remains an elusive ideal.[8]

In the wake of the brawl, the NBA came under harsh scrutiny from some outlets. Noted conservative radio personality (and former ESPN NFL analyst) Rush Limbaugh said the brawl was "hip-hop culture on parade" and also added the statement that "NBA uniforms are now in gang colors. They are in gang styles." NBA commissioner David Stern, in a 2006 interview, made this comment about the brawl-related criticism:

When Ron Artest went into the stands, it was, 'All those players are ...' ... And I know for a fact that they're not all the same, so I wonder why they're so easily generalized. Maybe we're not doing as good of a job as we should be doing, or maybe there's something else at work.[9]

Knicks-Nuggets brawl

The Knicks-Nuggets brawl was an on-court altercation at a National Basketball Association game between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden, New York, on December 16, 2006. This altercation was the most penalized on-court fight since the Pacers–Pistons brawl of November 19, 2004.

All ten players on the court at the time of the altercation were ejected, and seven players total were suspended. Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets was suspended for 15 games, while J.R. Smith and Nate Robinson were suspended for 10 games each. Neither coach was suspended; still, some believed that then-New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas should have been suspended for allegedly telling his players to foul any Nuggets player who attempted a dunk or layup. NBA Commissioner David Stern received criticism for not including Thomas in the suspensions [1]. Some viewed Stern's leniency as evidence of a special relationship with Thomas.[10][11]

Thomas was accused of trying to bring back the mentality of the late-1980s Detroit Pistons, who were known for their physical play.[12] Various columnists and observers found Thomas' actions inappropriate; before the fight, Thomas was seen warning Anthony not to go into the lane. ESPN analyst and former NBA player Greg Anthony stated that "I never had a coach say that to an opponent ... I've had a coach say, do a better job protecting our territory. That's a little different."[13]

The fight brought a large amount of media attention, and was a topic on mainstream news broadcasts, including World News with Charles Gibson[14]. Several columnists claimed that the NBA had been set back several years, and many used the fight as evidence of the league being a haven for thugs[15][16]

New York Knicks guard Steve Francis noted that the media reaction to the fight and the suspensions itself were "racially motivated".[17] Francis argued that Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League had fights worse or equal to the Knicks/Nuggets altercation and rarely faced the type of media attention and scrutiny that the NBA received. Several columnists agreed, including Sam Smith (who called the coverage "racist and nonsense" in a piece)[18], J. A. Adande and David Aldridge[19][20]

Latrell Sprewell chokes coach

In 1997, Latrell Sprewell was involved in arguably the most infamous incident in the NBA prior to the Pacers–Pistons brawl seven years later.

During a contentious practice, then-Golden State Warrior Sprewell was involved in an altercation with head coach P.J. Carlesimo which eventually ended up in him choking his coach and threatening to kill him.

The incident brought mainstream attention, but not quite the amount of criticism of the league as a whole as later controversies would. While some wondered if Sprewell's actions were indicative of a growing trend in the league, others tempered that belief with the idea that it was an isolated incident. Then active player Buck Williams said this on PBS:

Now it's a different way. It's a different player. And I think what's happening, you know, in our environment, in our society, is sort of--it just reflects what's happening in NBA. I mean, a lot of the players are young and sort of misunderstood. And it takes a very special coach, and it takes quite an understanding organization to try to deal with the new athlete.[21]

Sprewell would have his image redeemed somewhat after a run to the NBA Finals with the New York Knicks in 1999. However, after a contentious battle with the Minnesota Timberwolves over his salary in 2004, his image took another hit.

Age limit

In 2005, the NBA was in the midst of creating a new collective bargaining agreement. One of the main topics of the deal was the league's desire to create a new age-limit for players to enter the NBA Draft.

The idea of an age-limit had been talked about for several years, after the entrance into the league of several high-school players. While several players who have entered the league out of high school have become successes (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Amar'e Stoudemire, Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, and decades ago, Moses Malone), others have been relative failures (for example, Ndudi Ebi, James Lang, Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, or Robert Swift). Those in favor of an age-limit made the argument that players entering the league out of high school did not know the fundamentals of playing professional basketball and also were not mature enough to handle playing in the NBA.

Well, they are physically mature enough to be part of the NBA, and they are great young players. But as you frame the issue, the question is whether a couple of years more of seasoning would increase their maturity, their skills, their collegiate programs and ultimately what it could do for sending messages to kids who are practicing their skills who should think about getting an education rather than coming right to [the] NBA.[22]

—NBA commissioner David Stern in a 2001 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Proponents of the age-limit included Michael Wilbon, who argued that it was important for young players to get an education.[23] Wilbon's belief, while held by many, has also been referred to as "simplistic" and "[reflective] not just [of] hypocrisy but a reimagination of reality as well"[24]. Michael Mccann of the Mississippi College School of Law made this argument:

In stark contrast to popular myth, this Article finds that players drafted straight out of high school are not only likely to do well in the NBA, but are likely to become better players than any other age group entering the league. ... Beyond excellence in performance, high school players can also earn substantially more over the course of their NBA careers ... players who bypass college may earn as much as $100 million more over the course of their careers than had they earned a college diploma.[25]

Greg Anthony was one prominent NBA personality against the age-limit. Anthony's belief was that people should be able to make their own decisions about whether or not to enter the league, and that (quoting an article and not Anthony himself) "players from inner-city high schools aren't academically qualified for college because of the lower quality of education compared to their suburban counterparts"[26] This led him into conflict with Wilbon and more notably with colleague Stephen A. Smith. On an April 2005 edition of NBA Shootaround, Anthony and Smith got into a heated debate about the age-limit.[27] This came only days after Anthony was the primary interviewer in a discussion with Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal.

The interview was described by Sports Illustrated writer Mark Bechtel as "...Greg Anthony putting words in O'Neal's mouth then saying something along the lines of, "Is that what you meant?" And then O'Neal would say, "Exactly."[28] It came on the heels of O'Neal discussing the age-limit in the context of race, and as he was in the midst of growing media attention and criticism.

As a black guy, you kind of think [race is] the reason why it's coming up. You don't hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it's unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. Army and fight the war at 18, why can't you play basketball for 48 minutes and then go home? ... In the last two or three years, the Rookie of the Year has been a high school player. There were seven high school players in the All-Star game, so why we even talking [about] an age limit?[24]

As noted in a article by David Leonard, O'Neal was roundly attacked for his opinion, with many accusing him of playing the race card and using his prior actions in Pacers–Pistons brawl as a reason to dismiss his claims.

With the agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the age limit was put into place. Any person attempting to enter the NBA Draft must wait until the calendar year of his 19th birthday, and must also be at least one year out of high school.

No tolerance rule

At the start of the 2006-07 NBA season, the NBA instituted a new rule regarding in-game player complaints. The "no tolerance rule", as it was referred to by players and the media, allowed referees to call technical fouls when players complained too vehemently about calls.

The season started with a spike in the number of technical fouls and ejections. There were "one-hundred-four technicals and seven ejections in the first fifty-one games," while "only seven games of the first fifty-one games thus far have had no technical fouls".[29] Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, who would later be suspended for his participation in a fight later that year, was suspended on opening night of the season after two technical fouls.

Although Anthony wasn't looking at or speaking to referee Ted Washington, he received a second technical with the Nuggets behind by two points in the third quarter. He got the "T" for throwing his headband to the floor after being called for his fourth foul.[30]

Some observers viewed the rule as unfair and taking the passion out of the game; others believed that it only served to take pressure off of referees who made bad calls.

I don't like it. Basketball is an emotional game; guys are always going to express their thoughts about calls. ... There are times you are going to disagree. You shouldn't get a "T" for nit-picky things.[31]

Corliss Williamson, Sacramento Kings

Over-the-top complaints and gestures should certainly be penalized, but the rule goes too far. Does David Stern believe that disallowing the players' protests will fool fans into accepting the infallibility of the refs?[32]

Charley Rosen, Fox Sports

Others agreed with the rule, viewing it as a much needed policy to cut down on the "whining" by players in the league.

Nobody likes the scowling, the arm-waving, the stomping and ball-slamming, certainly not after a meaningless call in the second quarter of some game in mid-November. And such ridiculousness was one reason why too many consumers perceived NBA players as self-absorbed, overbearing, churlish and out of touch. ... Too many are out of touch with the people who pay the freight. Who pays to come to the arena to see this demonstrative complaining? Nobody. The notion some players have put forth, that the NBA is trying to take the emotion from the game, is so preposterous it's insulting.[33]

Michael Wilbon, Washington Post

After the initial spike at the start of the season, the amount of technical fouls and ejections declined significantly towards the middle of the year. Several players, including Denver Nuggets guard Allen Iverson, were still ejected on technical fouls; Iverson's ejection came during his first game against his former team, the Philadelphia 76ers, and he was later fined by the league for claiming that referee Steve Javie ejected him on the basis of a feud the two supposedly had.[34]

Conspiracy theories

Some NBA fans have accused the league of conspiring to have large-market teams and popular players succeed in the postseason. Since 1980, only one NBA Finals (2006) has not involved the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers or San Antonio Spurs. Additionally, since 1980, every NBA Finals has involved at least one of the following eight players: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, or Kobe Bryant (Although Tim Duncan played in all three of the lowest-rated NBA Finals series since 1981 (2003, 2005, & 2007)).[35] Furthermore, in that span, at least one of the following 7 head coaches has been involved in every finals: Billy Cunningham, Bill Fitch, Pat Riley, Chuck Daly, Phil Jackson, Rudy Tomjanovich, or Gregg Popovich.

During the Chicago Bulls run of six NBA titles in eight years, fans accused the NBA and its referees of going easy on Michael Jordan. When the Los Angeles Lakers won three titles in a row in the early 2000s, fans believed that referees were helping them win as well. In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks and their fans felt slighted by a perceived referee and league bias towards Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in the Finals. Frequently, fans of both teams in a given series can feel that their team is being conspired against. In 1998, some Utah Jazz fans felt that the NBA desired the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals so the league could have a second Bulls-Lakers matchup (the first came in 1991). At the same time, some Laker fans thought the league was conspiring against their team so that Utah would go back to the Finals in a rematch of the previous years series.[36]

Many of these accusations are based on the premise that the NBA desires large markets and popular players for ratings purposes. Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson disputes the idea that matchups have the biggest effect on ratings:

Ratings are a factor, but the 'conspiracy theory' misses the whole point. It has nothing to do with a great matchup, it has to do with the total number of games. NBC would trade a great matchup that's a sweep in a flash for a bad match up that goes seven games.[37]

Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals

The 1998 NBA Finals, which still boast the highest television ratings of any NBA championship series, pitted the Chicago Bulls against the Utah Jazz. This was a rematch of the previous year's finals. In 1997, the Bulls had the homecourt advantage and won in six games, but in 1998, the Jazz, having swept the Bulls in the regular season, had homecourt advantage. An extremely controversial call in Game 6, held in Salt Lake City on June 14, fed into conspiracy theories that the NBA and NBC desired strongly that Michael Jordan and the Bulls win another championship. In the first half of the game, Jazz guard Howard Eisley made a 3-point jumper that was ruled by referee Dick Bavetta to have been released after the shot clock expired. Replays showed that the ball had clearly left Eisley's hands in time and that the shot should have counted; not only that, but the shot clock had a full second left when the ball was halfway into the air.[38][39] Later, in the second half, Bulls guard Ron Harper made a two-point jump shot that was counted, despite replays showing that the shot was not released in time.

The Bulls went on to win the game, and the series, on a famous, seemingly posed final play in which Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone, took the ball to the other end, and made the game-winning jumper over Jazz forward Bryon Russell, who fell on the play. Jazz fans and commentators argued that these events were orchestrated by the NBA and NBC to ensure a Jordan/Bulls victory. While the shot clock errors were the most egregious, since they resulted in a net Bulls advantage of five points (they only won by one), Jazz fans also claimed that Jordan committed at least one, and possibly two fouls on the play leading to the game-winning shot. He seemed to have pushed Russell, who was defending him, before making the shot, and there is a possibility that Malone was fouled on the preceding steal. Also, it seemed that the final Jordan shot was too posed or photo-ready to have been real, leading to accusations that officials conspired with Jordan to stage it. While none of these claims can be substantiated, the events contributed to the perception that a win by the small-market Jazz, despite their possession of superstars Malone and John Stockton, would not be acceptable, and would somehow tarnish Jordan's legacy. The fact that Scottie Pippen was injured and likely would not have played in a Game 7 in Salt Lake City would have given the Jazz a huge advantage, making the alleged conspiracy for a Bulls win necessary in Game 6—allowing a Game 7 would have been too risky.[40] It is believed that the aftermath of the shot clock call errors in this game later led the NBA to allow video review on close shot clock calls.

Accusation from Jeff Van Gundy

During a 2005 playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy was fined a record amount for a coach, $100,000, for asserting that he had a source within the league who informed him that the referees were being instructed to call more fouls on Yao Ming, due to protests by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.[41]

Bulls-Celtics 2009 Eastern Conference Quarter Finals

During a 2009 playoff series between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, many Bulls fans felt that the referees were favoring the Celtics. In Game 5, Celtics guard Rajon Rondo made hard contact with the face of Bulls' center Brad Miller, with just 2 seconds left in overtime with Boston leading by two. Earlier in game 5, Rondo tripped Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, forcing Hinrich to get stitches to close the resulting wounds from being tripped. The hit on Miller left him with a bleeding mouth, but because the foul was ruled a personal foul, Miller had to shoot the free throws, or he would not have been allowed to return, and Boston would pick the replacement shooter. Had the foul been ruled a flagrant, the Bulls would have been able to pick the replacement shooter. Miller would miss the first free throw, and then had to miss the second on purpose to give Bulls a chance to tie the game, but the free throw did not hit the rim and the Celtics got possession and ran out the clock. Rondo admitted after the game that he did not have a play on the ball.[42]

In Game 6, near the end of the first quarter, Rondo threw Hinrich into the scorer's table in a fashion similar to Robert Horry's body slam of Steve Nash 2 years earlier. Rondo was assessed a flagrant 1, which allowed for him to stay in the game, rather than a flagrant 2 which would have meant an ejection (which was Horry's punishment for his similar foul). Furthermore, after both games, the league reviewed the incidents in question and decided not to suspend Rondo or upgrade the fouls, while Horry's body slam earned him a 2-game suspension. Meanwhile, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was suspended for Game 6 of the Magic's series vs. the Philadelphia 76ers after the league reviewed tape of him elbowing Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert in the head in Game 5. It was ruled a technical on the floor, but after review, the league upgraded the foul to a flagrant 2. Many people felt that had these incidents involving Rondo been the other way around, there would have been suspensions and ejections for the Bulls.[43]

Bucks-Sixers 2001 Eastern Conference Finals

It behooves everybody for the league to make more money, and the league knows that Philadelphia is going to make more money with L.A. than we would with L.A.[44]

Milwaukee Bucks star Ray Allen, before Game 6 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals.

In 2001, the Milwaukee Bucks played the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The small-market Bucks (who had not even been featured on NBC that year prior to the second round of the playoffs) did not have any "big-time" stars, with the exception of Ray Allen (who, despite being popular, was not in the upper-echelon of NBA players in terms of endorsements). Their opponent that year, the Philadelphia 76ers had the polarizing and popular Allen Iverson, who had a multitude of shoe deals and mainstream recognition. The Sixers also featured that year's winners of the MVP award in Iverson[45], Defensive Player of the Year award in Dikembe Mutumbo[46], Sixth Man of the Year award in Aaron McKie[47], and Coach of the Year award in Larry Brown[48].

The series had several calls deemed dubious by the Bucks and their fans. Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell and George Karl joined Allen in complaining about the officiating and hinting that the league was against them. Karl and Allen were both fined for their comments[44]. In Game 6 of the tensely-fought series, Bucks forward Scott Williams threw an elbow at Iverson and was subsequently suspended for the deciding Game 7. After Milwaukee lost Game 7 on the road, Sports Illustrated columnist Marty Burns insinuated that the suspension may have been a form of payback by the league:

Williams' elbow to Iverson's chin warranted the flagrant 2 ruling, which kept Williams out of Game 7, but the Bucks' public airing of such potentially damaging charges to the NBA probably didn't help their case.[49]

Some analysis of the foul discrepancies during this series appear to support the theory that fouls were unfairly called against the Bucks.[50] Specifically, despite being known for his ability to draw fouls and get to the free throw line, Iverson did so with less frequency during this series than he did during the regular season.[51] However, no conclusive evidence has been produced.

Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals

The 2002 Western Conference Final between the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers was one of the most memorable in league history. The popular (though small-market) Kings led the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers three games to two heading into Game 6 at Staples Center, a game which would prove to be the most infamous of the series. The game, which the Lakers won by four, featured several disputable calls, including a late game foul on Mike Bibby--after he was bleeding from being elbowed in the nose by Kobe Bryant. This game was the epitome of the major issue in the series. Both teams complained about the officiating at different points in the series (the Sacramento Kings in game 6 and the Lakers in Games 2 and 5). Quoting then-ESPN basketball analyst David Aldridge:

There is nothing I can say that will explain 27 free throws for the Lakers in the fourth quarter -- an amount staggering in its volume and impact on the game. It gave me pause. How can you explain it? How can you explain a game where Scot Pollard fouls out when he's two feet from Shaquille O'Neal, or that Doug Christie is called for a ridiculous touch foul just as Chris Webber spikes Kobe Bryant's drive to the hoop, or that Mike Bibby is called for a foul deep in the fourth quarter after Bryant pops him in the nose with an elbow?[52]

Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader weighed in on the series, voicing his displeasure with the officiating:

At a time when the public's confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust by corporate executives, it is important... for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performances... That sense was severely shaken in the now notorious officiating during Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings... When (Washington Post writer Michael) Wilbon writes that ‘The Kings and Lakers didn't decide this series ...three referees did..’ when many thousands of fans, not just those in Sacramento, felt that merit lost to bad refereeing, you need to take notice beyond the usual and widespread grumbling by fans and columnists about referees ignoring the rule book and giving advantages to home teams and superstars.[53]

The Kings would go on to lose Game 7 of the series at home. Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy filed in court papers in 2008 said that Game 6 was fixed by the NBA. Evidence shows that there were questionable calls against the Kings in Game 4 and Game 6. NBA Commissiner David Stern denies allegations against Donaghy.

Accusations by Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks

The 2006 NBA Finals came the year after a series that saw the second-lowest ratings in NBA Finals history. After the small-market San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons slugged it out in a seven-game series, the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks battled in a series that featured Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and mainstream star Dwyane Wade of Miami.

After Game 4, the Mavericks were already beginning to feel slighted. High scoring sixthman Jerry Stackhouse had been suspended for Game 5 thanks to a hard foul on Shaquille O'Neal. Some complained that Stackhouse was suspended thanks to a bias towards O'Neal and the Heat.[54] However, several players had already been suspended during earlier rounds of the playoffs, thanks to the NBA cracking down on excessively physical play (Ron Artest, Raja Bell, Udonis Haslem, James Posey among others had already faced one-game suspensions).

With the series tied at two games apiece, Game 5 was pivotal. On the final possession in overtime, Dwyane Wade received an inbounds pass from mid court. Because Wade had already been in the front court prior to the inbounds of the ball, some argue that he should have been ruled ineligible to receive the pass in the backcourt and the Heat should have been called for a backcourt violation. After receiving the ball, Wade went on to drive to the basket, drawing a foul on Dirk Nowitzki. Replays would reveal that Nowitzki barely touched Wade, further angering Mavericks fans. However, the replay also showed Mavericks' guard Devin Harris grabbing Wade's arm. In between Wade's free throws, Maverick Josh Howard looked to coach Avery Johnson to see if he wanted to call for time. Howard made a time-out gesture towards his coach; referee Joe Derosa saw and charged Dallas with their final time-out.

Without a time-out, the Mavericks were forced to inbound from full court after Wade hit his second free throw. Unable to get off a shot from inside of half court as time expired, the Mavericks lost the game and the series two nights later. Game 5 had 38 fouls called against the Mavs with only 26 against the Heat. The Mavericks shot 25 free throws as the Heat shot an amazing 49. 24 more than the Mavs. After Game 5, Dallas owner Mark Cuban was livid; he was quoted by The Miami Herald as screaming at David Stern that "[his] league is rigged". Cuban denied that accusation[55], and went on to write:

Any prudent, rational person can easily see it. The games are not rigged. Thats a complete insult to the players on the court and the incredible amount of effort they put into preparing for and playing the games. All 82 regular season and post season games. The NBA couldn't rig the games if it wanted to. And it doesn't want to. Its that simple.

Despite his denial, Cuban was fined $250,000 by the league, not for his alleged comments, but for general "acts of misconduct" following the game.

1985 NBA Draft

1985 was the first year of the NBA Draft Lottery. Prior to that year, the team with the worst record in the NBA would get the first pick in the draft (as is done in the National Football League).

The Oakland-based Golden State Warriors finished with the worst record in the NBA during the 1984-85 season and would have had the first draft choice under the previous system. That year, Georgetown center Patrick Ewing was the favorite to be the number one pick in the draft. The large-market New York Knicks finished with the third-worst record in the league that season.

When the Knicks won the draft lottery, eventually drafting Ewing (who would become a legend on the team, leading New York to the NBA Finals in 1994), many believed that it was because the league staged the result.[56] The "Frozen Envelope Theory" is partly based on how the lottery is conducted: the teams are selected behind closed doors. Those buying into the theory allege that the envelope with the Knicks' logo on it was frozen so that it would be easier to draw when it came time to select the team that had the first pick in the draft.[57] Video evidence shows that the Knicks envelope was jammed into the drum, and then when reaching for the first envelope, Stern reaches for the one with the bent corner.[58] The NBA denies this ever happened.

Accusations of network bias

During its twelve-year run of covering the NBA, NBC Sports televised a substantial number of games featuring the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. In the prime-time slot, from 5:30 p.m EST to 8:00 p.m EST, NBC aired games almost exclusively featuring New York, Chicago or Los Angeles (incidentally, those three cities are the top three television markets in the United States, as they are the 3 most populous cities). Several fans and media analysts viewed this as favoritism [59], and fans of teams like the Houston Rockets who, despite being a dominant team in the mid-1990s (and Houston being the USA's fourth most populous city), were not featured on NBC at the level of the other three teams, felt as if they were being snubbed.[60][61]

The perceived bias can be explained by the fact that, from 1990 to 2002 (NBC's run of covering the NBA), the Bulls, Lakers and Knicks played in six, four and two NBA Finals respectively. Until 1998, the Chicago Bulls were a dominant team, and during the early-to-mid 1990s, the New York Knicks were also in the NBA's elite. From 1997 to 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers also joined the ranks of the best in the NBA. The teams' dominance, combined with the fact that they played in major media markets, led to their being featured more often than other teams.

New game ball

After the 2005-06 season, David Stern announced that the league would use a new microfiber ball for the 2006–07 season. The microfiber ball replaced the previously used leather balls. The league claimed the new ball would provide better grip than the leather counterparts, especially when wet from player's sweat. Still the majority of players (notably Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash) expressed dislike for the new ball, saying among other things that it became slippery when wet, bounced awkwardly and gave players cuts.[62][63][64]

The largest complaint came from the fact that players had not been consulted before the new ball was put into play. The NBA Players Association filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit against the league because of that fact,[65] subsequently dropping it after the league announced that it would revert back to the leather balls starting on January 1, 2007. In a humorous move, the Washington Wizards played a video on the Verizon Center scoreboard welcoming back the "new old ball".[66][67] Despite complaints, scoring and field goal percentage went up while the microfiber ball was used.[68] Some individual players, however, including Chicago Bulls guard Ben Gordon and the then Seattle Supersonics guard Ray Allen, saw their usually high three-point shooting percentages decline.[69]

A more rigorous study found that while shooting percentages did in fact increase, so did turnover rates.[70]

In the aftermath, Commissioner Stern now says that players will have more input on future decisions.[71]

Referee gambling scandal

On July 20, 2007, it was reported that the FBI are investigating a referee, Tim Donaghy, for gambling on NBA games.

Gilbert Arenas gun incident

On December 24, 2009, it was revealed that Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards had admitted to storing unloaded firearms in his locker at Verizon Center and had surrendered them to team security. In doing so, Arenas not only violated NBA rules against bringing firearms into an arena, but also violated D.C. ordinances as well.[72] On January 1, 2010, it was also reported that Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton had unloaded guns in the Wizards' locker room during a Christmas Eve argument regarding gambling debts. The D.C. Metropolitan Police and the U.S. Attorney's office began investigating,[73] and on January 14, 2010, Arenas was charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a violation of Washington D.C.'s gun-control laws.[74] Arenas pleaded guilty on January 15 to the felony of carrying an unlicensed pistol outside a home or business. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 26.[75]

On January 6, 2010, (his 28th birthday) the NBA suspended Arenas indefinitely without pay until its investigation was complete. NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement that "his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game." By nearly all accounts, Stern felt compelled to act when Arenas' teammates surrounded him during pregame introductions prior to a game with the Philadelphia 76ers, and he pretended to shoot them with guns made from his fingers.[76] The Wizards issued a statement of their own condemning the players' pregame stunt as "unacceptable."[77] On January 27, 2010, Arenas and Crittenton were suspended for the rest of the season, after meeting with Stern.[78]


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  6. ^ NBA players' union chief shouldn't let penalties temper talks
  7. ^ Pistons cite refs for severity of brawl
  8. ^ Pistons-Pacers brawl can't be analyzed in black and white
  9. ^ League of his own
  10. ^ ESPN - Not so Stern: Commish lets Isiah off the hook - NBA
  11. ^ Michael Wilbon - A Hittin' Image -
  12. ^ Thomas May Be Only Winner In Wake of NBA's Latest Fight
  13. ^ NOT SO TOUGH
  14. ^ The Ticker: Olbermann, Schaap, Walters...
  15. ^ COLUMN: NBA: No (real) basketball allowed
  16. ^ There's no team, and no shame, in today's basketball players
  17. ^ Knicks' Francis: Race A Factor
  18. ^ Ask Sam Smith
  19. ^ An Image Issue: NBA's marketing philosophy has caused its players to be under close scrutiny
  20. ^ NBA's image vs. the NFL's
  21. ^ Out of Bounds
  22. ^ All Stars Too Soon: The NBA Age Dilemma
  23. ^ Taking a Stern Stand Against Child Labor
  24. ^ a b The Real Color of Money: Controlling Black Bodies in the NBA
  25. ^ Illegal Defense: The Irrational Economics of Banning High School Players from the NBA Draft
  26. ^ Stern picks wrong fight
  27. ^ ESPN's New Master of the Offensive Foul
  28. ^ LeBron's no idiot (cont.)
  29. ^ Is Stern On A Power Trip?
  30. ^ No-tolerance rule stops making sense
  31. ^ Kings' Williamson has 'no tolerance' for new rule
  32. ^ Mailbag: 'zero tolerance,' Big Ben and more
  33. ^ NBA Players Need To Play by the Rule
  34. ^ Denver's Iverson fined for referee remarks
  35. ^ NBA Finals Ratings
  36. ^ The Utah Conspiracy?
  37. ^ Putting NBA conspiracy theory to the test
  38. ^ Bulls win 6th NBA title
  39. ^ Best finals games ever in Delta Center
  40. ^ The NBA's love affair with Michael Jordan
  41. ^ Yao 'targeted,' alleges Van Gundy
  42. ^ Rondo in, Howard Out: Double Standard
  43. ^ Avenging Bulls Keep Crazy Series Alive
  44. ^ a b Bucks think Sixers are getting all the calls
  45. ^ MVP Award Winners
  46. ^ Defensive Player of the Year Award Winners
  47. ^ Sixth Man of the Year Award Winners
  48. ^ Larry Brown Coaching Record
  49. ^ Big man, big game
  50. ^ 2001 East Final Game 7- Phi vs. Mil
  51. ^ 2001 East Final Game 7- Phi vs. Mil
  52. ^ Perception more harmful to NBA than reality
  53. ^ Nader urges Stern to review officiating
  54. ^ Theories on How Dallas was Screwed in the NBA Finals
  55. ^ The NBA is rigged ? Please..
  56. ^ The Biggest NBA Conspiracys. Unveiled!
  57. ^ Conspiracy Alert
  58. ^ NBA on CBS 1985 NBA Draft Lottery - COMPLETE VERSION
  59. ^ NBC loves Lakers
  60. ^ NBC pays for the snub
  61. ^ NBC's East Coast Bias
  62. ^ PRO BASKETBALL; A Whole New Game Ball? N.B.A. Admits Its Mistake
  63. ^ NBA ball controversy reaches new level
  64. ^ Microfiber ball was on the 'cutting' edge
  65. ^ Union: New ball cuts hands
  66. ^
  67. ^ Leather ball will return on Jan. 1
  68. ^ New NBA ball gets bounced
  69. ^ New ball bounced
  70. ^ Did the New Ball Have an Effect?
  71. ^ Stern Says Players Will Have Input in Future Balls
  72. ^
  73. ^,2933,581718,00.html
  74. ^ Howard Beck. "Wizards’ Arenas Is Charged With Felony". New York Times. January 14, 2010. Retrieved on January 14, 2010.
  75. ^
  76. ^,212006
  77. ^
  78. ^ Stern bans Arenas, Crittenton for year

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