Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Report: NBA Investigating Ref For Ties To Mob And Betting (update)

NBA Referee

The New York Post is reporting this morning that an NBA referee is being investigated by the FBI for his ties to the mob and betting on basketball games.

Let me first say that I have not been able to independently confirm this story. Now on to my thoughts. I find it possible that some referee could have found himself in a situation that this could have happened. NBA referees get paid a couple hundred thousand dollars and while top players who make millions aren't so corruptible, referees--much like college basketball players who make nothing--certainly are more subject to outside influence.

Let's not forget that referees have been in trouble with the law before.There was that slew of NBA referees--nine pleaded guilty--who were caught downgrading their first class airline tickets, pocketing the money and not reporting on their income tax returns. Now the problem I have with all this is I believe it's pretty hard to perfectly fix an NBA game--even as a referee. A game is made up of thousands of different actions and I'm not sure a referee can guarantee a perfect point spread as much as a star player can.

I know people want names here. It's hard to name names because we don't even know if this is true, but Joey Crawfordis going to be the first speculated name.

Update: Just a case in point that its really hard to pick these things out. A source with knowledge of the case has informed me that Joey Crawford is not the referee in question.

Crawford was one of those referees who pleaded guilty to falsely stating his income from 1991 to 1993. Once the investigation started, he was not allowed to referee, but was reinstated in during the lockout shortened season of 1999.

As you might remember, Crawford ejected Tim Duncan--just his second ejection in his 10-year career--on April 15 in a game between the Spurs and Mavericks. Crawford gave Duncan a second technical foul for what amounted to the star power forward essentially just laughing on the bench. To watch it click here.

Duncan said after the game that he hardly talked to Crawford, while Crawford contended Duncan was talking to him the whole game. At the time, I thought it was weird that Duncan said that Crawford challenged him to a fight after the game. Crawford was suspended for the rest of the season for his actions (and later reinstated).

People were speculating at the time, on betting message boards, that Crawford's action was possible sign that he or someone he knew had a bet on Dallas. There isn't a whole lot of data about how the Spurs fare without Duncan since he hardly misses a game, although I guess it should be pretty obvious.

Now let's get hard core on this thing. Despite the fact that Dallas had the best record in the league and was playing at home, the Mavericks were 3.5-to 4-point underdogs in the game. According to my trusty play-by-play chart for the game, Duncan was got ejected with 1:04 to go in third quarter. At the time his team had the a six-point lead, 74-68, and were therefore covering the spread by at least two points. With Duncan out, the Mavericks closed the game on a 23-12 run, while the Spurs went the final 4:17 without scoring a point.

Again, I have no specific evidence it is this game that it is being questioned or that it is indeed Crawford. It just seems like this game really stood out to me, and every NBA fan, as bizarre behavior. The thing that goes against me here is that there was a recent report that Crawford was reinstated.

If this is true, and Crawford is the one being investigated, then why would the league do that?

Questions?  Comments?