January 2023, Boston Garden, picture it.
All-world forward LeBron James drives to the basket for a potential game-winning basket , only to get whacked on the arm by Jason Tatum causing the shot attempt to careen harmlessly off the bottom of the rim. The NBA refs continued their precedent of making calls they shouldn’t or not making the ones they should and in the face of overwhelming visual evidence decided there was nothing to see and pocketed the whistles. We then saw an incredulous nearly 40-year old living legend of the NBA have a full-on meltdown like a child who got a Super Nintendo instead of a PlayStation on Christmas morning. The game went to overtime, and the Celtics ultimately came away victorious, 125-121.
The NBA and its referees were rightfully raked across the coals as this was just the latest in a series of egregious foul ups by NBA officials. Much to no one’s surprise the Pool Report released by the NBA the next day revealed what everyone already knew- the zebras blew the call and thus cost the Lakers a chance at winning the contest in regulation. Crew chief Eric Lewis , when asked about the now infamous no-call on the Lebron drive at the end of regulation said, “There was contact. At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”
The NBA referees twitter account insulted the even the diminished basketball acumen of the current crop of basketball fans with a tweet that referred to blowing the call “gut-wrenching” and that it will “cause sleepless nights.”
The ridiculous calls, ludicrous technical fouls, and ejections that have plagued the league over recent years have not caused the referees to publicly declare any feelings of angst.
Did the inane ejection of Ja Morant for having a friendly discussion with Grizzlies fans cause any zebras to lose a wink of sleep?
How gut-wrenching was it for the officials for the myriad of calls that were made and should not have been made in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals? A game in which the officiating was so bad that the integrity of the game has been called into question from the moment the final buzzer sounded.
Were the officials up all night after Tim Duncan was ejected for laughing while sitting on the Spurs bench?
Did the officials wring their hands over the Howard Eisley three-pointer in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals that should have counted and a Ron Harper heave in the same game that should not have?
The Lakers and Lebron James are completely justified with righteous indignation for that blown call. It is not even the first time the officiating may have jobbed the purple and gold from a potential victory this month. In their game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid blatantly grabbed Russell Westbrook’s arm as the guard drove to basket for a potential game-winning basket; no foul was called on Embiid and the Lakers ended up losing the contest, 113-112. Apparently that blowing that call was copacetic with the officials and the NBA said there was nothing to see here as the league backed the referees and started they did not act in error.
The league and their officials can keep their fake contrition; they are only concerned that the ineptitude of game officials was put on display in front of a national audience and it not only cost a marquee player and team, in LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers but also gave validation to the scores of fans who have long been critical of the quality of NBA officiating.
If the National Basketball Association was truly concerned about the quality of it’s officiating, it would put parameters in place for holding its referees accountable rather than putting out empty statements on social media.