In a new interview with VladTV, Donaghy, who spent 11 months in prison after the NBA found him at the center of an infamous gambling scandal in 2007, reflected on the first round of the 2006 NBA Playoffs, which included a classic Lakers-Suns series that saw Kobe push a superior Steve Nash-led Phoenix to seven games.
According Donaghy, the NBA urged officials to call more fouls on Raja Bell, who at the time prided himself on being "The Kobe Stopper."
“I’ll never forget when Kobe was in a playoff series with the Phoenix Suns, and I forget who the defender was, but they called him ‘The Kobe Stopper,’ or he referred to himself as ‘The Kobe Stopper,’ and they would show us video of games previously of plays that fouls weren’t called on this guy holding him or defending him too strongly, and they wanted freedom of movement because they wanted higher scores in these games," Donaghy explained.
Donaghy continued, "They would show you plays and say, ‘This was a foul that was missed, and these three referees missed this play. Make sure you don’t let this happen tonight, make sure you call this when this happens.’ And that’s how they would program and train the officials in the next game to have more freedom of movement and have Kobe Bryant have the ability to score more points and do well.”
Despite Donaghy's claims, it's worth noting that the Suns finished off the Lakers in a seven-game battle. Aside from a 50-point performance in Game 6, Kobe struggled throughout the series, as Bryant, who led the league in scoring that season with 35.4 points per game, was limited to 27.9 points per game in the series.
Donaghy resigned from the NBA in 2007 after the FBI investigated him for allegedly betting on games he officiated. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.