Twenty years ago the 2002 Western Conference Finals featuring the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers took place and to this day it remains the most controversial playoff series in NBA history.
To anyone who saw the game in person or on live television, the one-sided officiating was too much for the Sacramento Kings to overcome. The Lakers would go on to win game 6 and the series. Former referee Tim Donaghy, who would eventually serve a 15-month prison sentence for a gambling scandal, alleged in a court filing that the playoff series in 2002 was manipulated by two referees who officiated that game.
Here is what was alleged:
“Referees A, F and G were officiating a playoff series between Teams 5 and 6 in May of 2002. It was the sixth game of a seven-game series, and a Team 5 victory that night would have ended the series. However, Tim learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew referees A and F to be ‘company men,’ always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series. Referees A and F heavily favored Team 6. Personal fouls [resulting in obviously injured players] were ignored even when they occurred in full view of the referees. Conversely, the referees called made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw opportunities for Team 6. Their foul-calling also led to the ejection of two Team 5 players. The referees’ favoring of Team 6 led to that team’s victory that night, and Team 6 came back from behind to win that series.” (ABC News)
Tim Donaghy’s full version of the alleged scandal is available to read for free on Hoopla.