Why the NBA Still Has a Big-Time Referee Problem

The Free Throw Gap

The Problem: This year's playoff leaders in free-throw attempts per game are (in order) Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant. Aggressive scorers? Sure. But the correlation between free-throw attempts and star power is way too close to not be taken seriously. In their second round series against the Thunder, the Lakers took 42 free throws in a single game. If you think a 33-year-old, hobbled Kobe Bryant's drawing nine legit fouls on the athletic Thunder defense, you're out of your mind. These guys get whistles whenever they're in the paint and it's become an accepted part of the game.

What Needs To Be Recognized: It's hard to argue for the virtue of basketball when the sports' purists basically brag about how corrupt it is. The "star call" is right next to athletes comparing themselves to "soldiers" and letting pitchers bat as the most ridiculous practices in pro sports. And, rather inexplicably, it's universally accepted by basketball's players and fans. Somewhere in Boston, there's a guy with a Larry Bird throwback, who thinks David Stern is fixing the playoffs and, simultaneously, screaming, "How does Paul Pierce not get that call!?" at his television.

 

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