When: May 18, 2002 - June 2, 2002
If you're a true NBA fan you remember this classic series like it was yesterday. The upstart Sacramento Kings faced off against the seemingly unbeatable Los Angeles Lakers. Every game was played close with the Kings leading the series 3-2 after five. Then there was Game 6. The Kings had some tough calls against them leading to the Lakers winning the game, and eventually the series. The controversy with this one lies with something everyone's favorite former NBA ref, Tim Donaghy, let out in '08. He alleged Game 6 was rigged by two of the referees acting in the interests of the league to get the series to a Game 7. It's one thing if some drunk fan is yelling at the screen that the refs are cheating his squad, but it's another altogether when a former ref who's already hit rock bottom releases this info to the public. Was this something Stern and the NBA had done before or continue to do? Does the playback agree with Donaghy's claims?
Verdict: The calls during that game are too laughably bad for us to believe the refs didn't have some sort of vested interest in a Laker win. Tim Donaghy didn't have much to gain by releasing the claim, so we honestly have to believe him in this case. If we were betting on it--pun intended--, we'd also say this wasn't the first nor the last time refs worked in the best interests of the league and sway a game one way or another. We all know about the superstar calls, but this is just on a whole new level. Maybe the league felt they needed the Lakers because of the weak Eastern Conference? A Sacramento/Jersey Final wouldn't have broken the box office. Either way we can watch highlights of Sac-town in their glory years all day and wonder what if.