Ben's SportsBlog

Ben is an expert on sports. He may be 12, but he can tell you about things that happened way before he was born. ESPN better be watching out for this guy...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

David Stern and the 2002 Western Conference finals

As I was browsing around the web recently, I happened to find a series of videos saying that the 2002 Western Conference finals (WCF) were fixed in favor of the Lakers. Who accused the NBA of such wrongdoing? It was Tim Donaghy, the ref who is most famous for being convicted of fixing games that he worked. Stern has refered to Donaghy as a "felon" and despite the fact that Donaghy alleges that Game 6 of the 2002 WCF was fixed to get a Game 7, David Stern has done nothing for 3 years. Donaghy alleges that 2 refs working that series conspired to rig Game 6 in order to force a Game 7 because it was in "the best intrest of the leauge" and to call bogus fouls on team B in order for team A to win and force a game 7. First, a bit of background on the Kings and Lakers.

The Kings didn't really do a whole lot untill 1998-1999, when they made the playoffs as a 6 and took the Jazz to limit befoe losing. The next year, the Lakers were taken to the limit by the Kings. Then the Lakers swept the Kings in the second round. That Kings team in 2002 featured Mike Bibby, who (as now) could shoot and was tough as nails, Peja Stojakovic, who could shoot 3's all day, Bobby Jackson coming off the bench, and Vlad Divac, the wily old center. Most of all, the reason those Kings were good was because they had Chris Webber, who was a great passer at the 4. The Kings were a 1, and had home court in the WCF

The Lakers were the 2-time defending champions in 2002. The Lakers were coached by the now retired Phil Jackson, who may be the greatest coach of all time. The Lakers that year were a 3 seed. The Lakers were led by Shaq and Kobe, who were at the height of thier powers and had Rob "Big Shot Bob" Horry, the most clutch player of my generation, and Rick Fox and Derek Fisher.

Why would the NBA want to rig an important series? The answer is very simple. At that time, the NBA was looking for a replacement to Jordan, and he needed to be playing in a large market. Ever notice that people like to compare Kobe to Mike? That's because the league needed a star and someone to be the sidekick. Apply this to the 2001-2002 season, the only team this would work for would be the Lakers, with the Big Aristotle (Shaq) and Kobe, which were a cash cow to the league. Why not hype Sacramento? They had good players, like Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, and guys that had certain roles, like Peja Stojackovic, who could shoot threes, and Scot Pollard who could defend Shaq pretty well. Remember what I just told you about Scot Pollard, it will come back soon.

That year the Nets made the Finals. The Nets aren't a large market, so the NBA needed to get a large market team in to make some money. Sacramento had a population of 407,018 in 2000, according to the census data. That's not a large market team, so in a Nets-Kings series, the pot would be less. LA had a population of 3,694,820 according to the same census. As we can all agree, LA is a large market and they love the Lakers and would have more supporters watching and buying gear. Stern realized that the NBA would make a killing with a Lakers-Nets final, so he and/or the refs rigged the series in the Lakers favor.

Now to the series itself. The Lakers win game 1 on the road, but the Kings win the next two. Game 4 the Lakers storm back from 24 points down and Rob Horry hits the game winning shot. Game 5 the Kings get a game winner right back with a three by Mike Bibby.

Game 6 is the proof you need to see that the game and the series was rigged. Click on the link to see for yourself what I'm transcribing. At 1:26, Kings center Scot Pollard entered the game with 3 minutes left in the 3rd quarter to give Vlade a rest, because Vlade has 4 fouls at this point. Pollard was known for his hair and his great defense. At 2:04, Pollard gets called for a foul on Kobe? I didn't see any foul, and the announcers said "where's that foul?". At 2:34-2:38, Pollard picks up his 5th foul on an illegal screen. I've played basketball in the past and have set screens. Pollard did not move his feet, so I don't see anything illegal about that. At 2:33, Pollard fouls out. I don't see anything wrong, maybe too soon with the hands. Pollard, who is known for his defense, fouls out in ten minutes? When I played, I took a lot of pride in my defense, and I did not let my man score a lot. Good defense is knownig not to foul. Pollard, who was a great defender would have to know this, should not have fouled out to soon. Now Vlade has to come back in with 4 fouls and he has to be careful. At 4:24, Phil Jackson is quoted as saying he will keep feeding Shaq down low. That's a smart strategy because the refs will make sure there is a game 7. At 4:32, Vlade gets his 5th foul? In basketball, you can not touch the shooter's hand in the act of shooting. The ball is clearly out of Shaq's hand, and Vlade only has a pinky on the arm of the Big Aristotle. That is not a foul! At 4:57-5:00, Webber picks up his 5th foul on an offensive foul? Webber had him all the way, that also was a flop by Horry, who is a flopper. That bit of acting won the Lakers the ball, the Academy has decided, and is worthy of something that soccer players do all the time. Vlade fouls out, so the Kings have to send out Lawrence Funderburke to deal with Shaq. It's perfectly clear that the refs were trying to foul out the Kings centers, because Shaq could and would quite often go to town down low, meaning that the Lakers would win. At 6:08, notice how Shaq is a 53% free throw shooter. He goes 13-17 that game. Using his percentage, an average Shaq would have made 9 foul shots. Now, Shaq would not have made 9 every time, because sometimes you shoot better than others. Was Shaq having a good day from the line, or was there something else. Also notice that Shaq steps over the line before the ball was in the basket or hit the rim/backboard. That's not playing by the rules. In fact, he does it every time he goes to the line. In basketball, the closer the shot, the more probable the ball's going in if the shot isn't contested. Free throws are not contested, therefore because Shaq steps closer, he will make more shots. At 7:10, Shaq takes down Lawrence Funderburke hard. A flagrant would have given the Kings the ball after the foul shots, giving the Kings a great chance to take the lead, and put the Lakers in trouble of going to the golf courses. No hard foul for the Kings. At 7:57, it looks like Mike Bibby and Kobe are hugging! No, Kobe than tackles Bibby to the ground and no foul is called with the Kings down 1 and 12 seconds left. Lakers win and go on to win game 7 and win the title.

That title never should be the Lakers. Through a conspiracy between the refs with the blessing of David Stern, the Kings got robbed of a title and have never recovered. That team got screwed because David Stern wanted more money in his big series. David Stern doesn't fear me, he will say I'm wrong, and thinks he's above the scandal. I may be called Bob Woodward, or an idoit. You may think I'm wrong, you may think I'm right. I don't care. I want you to understand that 9 years ago, a team got screwed because the NBA wanted more money. Ben out!