It's the middle of a heated playoff series between your favorite team against your favorite rival. Just like Rocky once placed a photo of his hated opponent Ivan Drago on his mirror, you do the same with Anderson Varejao, Pau Gasol, Quentin Richardson, LeBron James and yes, Kobe Bryant. You watch as they hound the officials for calls on every single trip down the court, screaming for a foul on offense and blatantly flopping on defense. Each and every play on each and every game you re-arrange your "hit list" of the biggest whiners, a-holes, and annoying instigators. Have you ever wondered if say, an NBA referee shares these thoughts with you and carries out a specific bias, or favoritism towards said list?
Continuing our review of Tim Donaghy's book, "Personal Foul," we take a look at his list of the top five a-holes in the NBA. Four out of Donaghy's five have worn the green uniform at some point in their careers. Four of the five seem quite logical whereas one was a head-scratcher.
In Chapter 5, entitled "The Player's League" beginning on page 67, Donaghy lists his top 5 and provides a general description as to what attributes one of these players has:
For every funny guy or likable character in the NBA, there was a real asshole- the kind of selfish, profane, self-absorbed spoiled brat who the referees just couldn't stand. My all-time top five on this list are Gary Payton, Rasheed Wallace, Antoine Walker, Chauncey Billups, and Stephen Jackson. These guys could make your life a living hell, and they usually did.
Payton, Sheed, and Billups played a whopping combined 2 1/2 seasons for the C's but Antoine was here for quite some time. Walker, Payton, Sheed and Stephen Jackson are hardly revelations, but I was surprised to see Chauncey Billups on this list. Over the years I've read nothing to the contrary of him being one of the classier guys in the league. Apparently Donaghy doesn't think so. He goes into detail as to how NBA officials would extract revenge on players ranking high on their personal hit lists.
To have a little fun at the expense of the worst troublemakers, the referees working the game would sometimes make a modest friendly wager amongst themselves: first ref to give one of the bad boys a technical foul wouldn't have to tip the ball boy that night. In the NBA, ball boys set up the referees' locker room and keep it stocked with food and beer for the postagme meal. We usually ran the kid ragged with a variety of personal requests and then slipped him a $20 bill. Technically, the winner of the bet won twice- he didn't have to pay the kid and he got to call a T on Mr. Foul-Mouthed Big-Shot Du Jour.
After the opening tip, it was hilarious as the three of us immediately focused our attention on the intended victim, waiting for something, anything, to justify a technical foul. If the guy so much as looked at one of us and mumbled, we rang him up. Later in the referees' locker room, we would down a couple of brews, eat some chicken wings, and laugh like hell.
This is as entertaining as it is disturbing. On the one hand, you have what seems like fraternity brothers messing around with each other while on the job. On the other hand, you have NBA officials messing around with a serious game that so many players, coaches, front office personnel, corporate sponsors, advertisers and fans that have invested so much of their time, hard work and money to see a fair game called. He goes on to give another jaw-dropping example that was probably the fuel to many of Tommy Heinsohn's loud and blazing fires.
We had another variation of this gag simply referred to as "first foul of the game" bet. While still in the locker room before tip-off, we would make a wager on which of us would call the game's first foul. That referee would either have to pay the ball boy or pick up the dinner tab for the other two referees. Sometimes, the ante would be $50 a guy.
Like the technical foul bet, it was hilarious- only this time we were testing each other's nerves to see who had the guts to hold out the longest before calling a personal foul. There were occasions when we would hold back for several minutes- an eternity in an NBA game- before blowing the whistle. It didn't matter if bodies were flying all over the place; no fouls were called because no one wanted to lose the bet.
We played this little game during the regular season and summer league. After a game, all three refs would gather around the VCR and watch a replay of the game. Early in the contest, the announcers would say, "Holy cow! They're really letting them play tonight!" If they only knew…
During one particular summer game, Duke Callahan, Mark Wunderlich, and I made it to the three-minute mark in the first quarter without calling a foul. We were running up and down the court, laughing our asses off as the players got hammered with no whistles. The players were exhausted from the nonstop running when Callahan finally called the first foul because Mikki Moore of the New Jersey Nets literally tackled an opposing player right in front of him. Too bad for Callahan- he lost the bet.
Donaghy goes on to discuss how his supervisors would ask him and the other officials as to what exactly was going on at the beginning of such games. In one game, he describes how Dee Kantner flat out told their supervisor about the pre-game bet and the supervisor, as well as the NBA, did nothing about it. Not even a verbal reprimand.
Celtic fans remember how foul prone Mikki Moore was, so THIS explains it. He was framed all along! All kidding aside, this is madness. The same madness that Hiensohn has been bellowing about for years. He's not the only one though. Doc Rivers has had several issueswith him, and Rasheed's run-ins with him are legendary.
Coming up in Part III of the series: Is Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck actually more immature and annoying than Mark Cuban during games?