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Worst Calls in NBA History

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Worst Calls in NBA History

Being a Piston fan, I’ve certainly see my fair share of “questionable” calls over the years, and while any given night in the NBA can bring plenty of qualified candidates, the ones making this list are the devastating, unforgivable, championship-costing calls. Now don’t get me wrong, I love this great game of ours, I love the NBA, but there have been things that have occurred over the years that have tested that love. Here they are:

#4) Game 6 of the Lakers/Kings 2002 Conference Finals: One of the great series’ of recent memory, it included the great Robert Horry tip-out buzzer beater in game 4 and an overtime game 7, but all of the great things about the series will be forever tainted by that game 6 travesty. The officiating in game 6 was so horrible, that former presidential candidate and consumer crusader, Ralph Nader, called for a formal investigation afterwards. The Lakers would go onto attempt 40 free throws to the Kings’ 25, the fourth quarter having the biggest discrepancy of all, with the Lakers attempting 27 to the Kings 9. Both Kings centers, Vlade Divac and Scott Pollard would foul out in the fourth, along with a very suspect call involving Mike Bibby, who was called for a foul on his way to a game-tying shot after being both shoved and elbowed by Kobe Bryant. The Lakers would go on to win game 6 and an overtime game 7 before easily defeating the overmatched Nets in the championship. Convicted felon and former NBA official, Tim Donaghy, would later indicate that he and two other officials were instructed to push the series to a game 7 by calling more fouls on one team than the other. The NBA denies any such allegations, but regardless, the game 6 officiating will go down as some of the worst in NBA history.

#3) Suns/Spurs 2007 Conference Finals: This would include a Game 3 officiating debacle by convicted felon, and game fixing official, Tim Donaghy. A game that Amare Stoudamire would only play 21 minutes because of foul trouble, a game where several calls would be questioned by usually vanilla ABC announcer Mike Breen. One in particular involved Nash going to the rim, getting racked across the arm by Robert Horry for a Nash turnover. The play happened right in front of Eddie Rush, who made no call, leading to a Mike D’antoni technical shortly after. At the end of game 4 one of the more famous plays of the series occurred when Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash into the scorer’s table with the game well in hand, leading to the suspensions of Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw, both of whom left the bench right after the violent foul on their star point guard. The thing that made the suspension that much more difficult to swallow was the fact that Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen did the exact same thing in the first half of the same game, following Francisco Elson landing on James Jones after a dunk. NBA officials later stated that while “Duncan should not have been on the playing court”, there was no need for a suspension because “the Elson-Jones incident was not deemed an altercation“ -- Stu Jackson. Either way, many feel the Suns were treated unfairly, costing them the series, and an opportunity to play the historically mediocre Cavs team that made the finals out of the East that year.

#2) Game 6 Lakers/Pistons 1988 Finals: This is the single call of my childhood that to this day is difficult to talk about. Just the year earlier, Larry Bird had ripped my young heart out after stealing the Isiah inbounds pass that most likely cost us a chance at an ’87 Finals appearance. Then came the equally devastating Bill Laimbeer call at the end of game 6 that most certainly cost the Pistons the ’88 championship, and the subsequent three-peat that would’ve followed. Down one, with 14 seconds left, the Lakers would go down to their all-time great Center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who would turn baseline and take his famous “sky” hook to try and take the lead, only this time, the shot rimmed off. Celebration time, right? But wait…the officials would call a foul on Bill Laimbeer, who after replay appeared to have his hands straight up as Kareem attempted the game winning shot. Anybody who has seen a Kareem sky hook, knows how difficult and devastating of a shot it was to defend, so difficult that fouling alone would be a task in itself, but in the waning seconds of a Finals game, you would need some serious contact to make this call…right? Wrong. To the utter disgust of Piston fans everywhere, Kareem and the Lakers would essentially be “bailed” out by one of the most egregious calls in NBA history, sending Kareem to the line, where he would hit two clutch free throws for the lead. Isiah Thomas, the great Detroit point guard, having seriously injured his ankle in the third quarter was unable to recieve a pass the following play, leading young Joe Dumars to drive and miss a double-clutch 5 footer, giving Detroit the loss. After another close loss in game 7, Detroit fans would be left to wonder what could've been for yet another year. As a young kid, this was hard to swallow, as a man years later, it’s even harder to swallow.

#1) Game 5 Heat/Mavericks 2006 finals: As a Piston fan, I had already developed a pretty healthy disgust for Dwayne Wade that year, especially the way he was so favorably treated by the officials during the Pistons/Heat conference finals, but even with the Jordan-esque whistles he saw, the Pistons just didn’t bring it that year, and didn‘t deserve to play in the Finals. With that being said, what would happen during the Heat/Mavs series to follow would make me forever question the NBA and it‘s motives. The Mavs would take a 2-0 lead in the series before Wade and the Heat would storm back to win it in 6. Many blame Dirk for choking the series away, and while I agree they missed various opportunities to win the series, the officiating is what ultimately led to their demise. During the series, Wade would shoot a record shattering 97 free-throws. That’s over 16 free throw attempts per game! In game 5 alone, Wade would shoot as many free-throws as the entire Mavs team, going 21-25, with the most egregious call coming in the final seconds of overtime in Game 5, a game where Dirk would hit one of the most clutch shots of his career, putting the Mavs up 1 with 9 seconds left after a fade away 18 footer that could best be described as “Bird-esqe”. A shot that will forever be forgotten because of a Wade bail-out on the following play.

The Play: First off, many would argue that he committed a back-court violation as the play started(I am one of those people). Days later the NBA would state that it wasn’t a backcourt violation because he never established “positive position” in the front court, stating that he “caught the ball in mid-air”, thus no backcourt violation. Replays clearly indicate that he had AT LEAST one foot in the front court when he caught it, possibly two depending on how good of a video you can get your hands on. After this apparent violation, Wade would then go on to take the ball 1-on-4, pushing Jason Terry to the ground in the process(clearly an offensive foul), before driving the ball to the rim in an out-of-control, hero-attempt, before throwing the ball at the rim and getting “bailed” out by Bennet Salvatore. While no ABC replay showed any contact whatsoever, later close-up pictures would show Dirk with a “bent” elbow on Wade’s back(a completely legal handcheck), which is what Salvatore would later claim was a “blatant push” in the back. Following the game, Cuban would get fined $250,000 for comments made against the officiating. Cuban would go on to spend millions of dollars investigating the ‘06 finals and immediately after recieving the results of the investigation, Cuban stated he was gonna sell the Mavs and quit the NBA. Cuban would never come forward with the results of this investigation and would never sell the Mavs, but IMO, this was one case where Stern and the NBA “manufactured” a champion. The fact was, the NBA was on a steady decline since the departure of Jordan, and many believe that Wade was chosen by the NBA to "carry the torch" so to speak. The following season Wade would injure his knee, putting on hold his anointed "savior" status, but regardless, the ‘06 Finals will go down as one of the biggest travesties in Sports history.



4/6/2009 9:15:56 PM
mikeD said:

that 06 finals was disgusting. shame on the nba.

4/9/2009 12:55:17 PM
Boggs said:

You seem to think the whole league is a conspiracy...I agree with all those being horrible calls, but out of BILLIONS of plays throughout history, there are gonna be some mistakes made. With that said, Dirk got robbed.

4/9/2009 3:10:25 PM
Brian said:

Agreed, but then again, there is a guy named Tim Donaghy rotting in jail for admitting to such allegations. Don't know how you could argue that.

6/12/2010 6:08:47 AM
D-Whistle said:

backcourt violation my ass. if they didn't call it, it must be legal. i'm da bess! D-Whistle!

6/17/2010 12:48:50 PM
Brian said:

Glad you could grace my blog with your presence D-Whistle. Lol

4/15/2011 4:49:44 PM
ron said:

The problem with the 06 Mavs is they didn't play defense.

one call you missed was 94 conference semi's bull-knicks phantom fould on pippen leading to NY win that shouldn't have been.


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