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Opinion: Fix The NBA By Abolishing Referees

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

There are a few reasons why I stopped following the NBA closely. The Timberwolves lack of relevance in their 25 year history, the fact a maximum of three teams have any realistic hope of winning an NBA title due to a league that favors super teams, the annoying hip-hop beats that play DURING the action at an NBA game, the endless time outs and, not least by a longshot, the horrible officiating.

The NBA officials have been proven to be corrupt in the past. Tim Donaghy was an NBA ref for 13 seasons before being convicted of gambling on games he was officiating in 2006 in 2007. Donaghy was sentenced to time in a federal prison, and the story (bizarrely) faded into the ether as time passed.

Veteran referee Joey Crawford was suspended in 2007 for ejecting Spurs forward Tim Duncan for laughing, then challenging the seven-footer “to fight.”

Not only are the referees of the league seemingly believing they are some sort of rogue warriors, there is some sort of class system in place for determining whether or not a violation was committed.

Take for example this non-call against Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat, in which he takes SEVEN steps before dribbling the ball and still does not get whistled for traveling:

Exhibit B: On the other end of the spectrum, there is this “non-call” against Kevin Love of the Timberwolves (good but not a SUPERSTAR in the NBA) that cost Love the chance to shoot free throws to tie the game:

Wolves head coach Rick Adelman essentially admitted the class system was in place after the non-call, according to the Associated Press:

“He got fouled,” Adelman said, according to the Associated Press. “I wonder what that would have been if [Dirk] Nowitzki, LeBron James, all the top players in the league — a guy reaches on a last-second shot like that, instead of challenging it. Maybe they don’t understand that Kevin is one of the top five players in this league. You make that call. But they didn’t.”

How on Earth can any league, commissioner, official or fan accept the fact that in one of this country’s four major sports there is no uniform set of rules? The rules of the game are too subjective.

My solution: Let the players police themselves, and have only one official at the scorer’s table to be the final say on disputed calls in the last five minutes of a game.

If JJ Barea wants to flop on the floor 15 times a game, he’s going to have to call his own fouls and face the ridicule and shame that would come with being “the guy who ALWAYS calls a foul.” We all knew that guy at the YMCA on Saturday mornings, and we all know he was not exactly the most-liked guy in the league.

I think the players’ fear of being labeled “soft” for calling too many fouls would even things out, and I think peers at that level would still use some discretion about making calls late in a game.

Wade walks from center court to the three point arc without dribbling? Someone on the other team points out it was a travel and the game continues.

Love gets his arm clearly tugged on at the end of a close game? Love calls the foul, the replay official concurs, and Love goes to the free throw line.

No more referees with personal vendettas or gambling problems. No separate rules for the LeBrons of the league. Just basketball the same way we grew up playing it.

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