NBA Officiating – Contrived or a Guessing Game?

I am writing a few blog posts for future posts while watching the Utah Jazz play the Rockets in the first round of the NBA finals. Every time I watch a professional basketball game, I question the legitimacy of the current officiating in the NBA.

I am not a big conspiracy theorist, so I really don’t believe it is all scripted and decided in advance like a WWF wrestling match. That said, you can’t deny that officiating is more of an art than a science. Professional sports are about money and entertainment value. Team owners, TV broadcasters and players all know this, and so do the officials. Though there are some hard fast rules that are supposed to be followed, there is a heavy dose of subjectiveness thrown in at the official’s disposal.
What gets me most is the obvious favoritism the “big name” players get in the interest of making the game a highlight reel. Broadcasters often comment on it, we all see it; there is no denying it. Touted and perhaps truly one of the best to ever play was of course Michael Jordan, and he was given the most leniency out of anyone I have ever seen. Remember the famous play we have seen a thousand times where Jordan literally pushed Brian Russell out of the way to make the winning shot against the Jazz in the playoffs? That shot should have never counted had the rules of the game been applied equally to all players and in all situations.

All the big names benefit from it. Tracy McGrady in this game I am watching. Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Karl Malone, Dwayne Wade, etc.

It can be argued though whether it is good for the game or not? Is the game all about pure competition or is it about better entertainment? If you side with the entertainment argument, then do the “little” teams from smaller cities ever really have a chance? Are we watching a sport that is becoming more contrived and driven by money that will always be won by the teams that bring the more popular players and better storyline?

Perhaps that is a bit more cynical than reality, but it does cause me to wonder periodically. I think the sport still retains a bit more credibility than that. There will always be the whiners that complain about the officiating, almost always from the fans of the team that lost of course. There has been some real concern about it in recent years though. Remember the Mavericks owner Mark Cuban spending over a million dollars in fines his first year to make the point that some things were very wrong with the lack of oversight in officiating? I think he had a very valid point, though his methods of making it was a bit on the grandstanding side of things.

This is one of many reasons why I spend more time watching college games than I do pro sports. The egos are smaller, mistakes by officials and players are more expected and a part of the game and the game seems much closer to something I can relate to. The game I am watching tonight I am only seeing about half of, and it is only the third half of an NBA game I have watched all season. I used to be an avid fan and watcher of the game, and I no longer feel that drive. I wonder if I’m not the only one slowly slipping away.

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