This story seems to be the talk of the town today, so I figured I’d throw down my take.
For those who don’t know, and I’ll post the media below so you can listen to the full interview, Jim Rome asked NBA Commissioner David Stern whether the NBA Pre-Draft Lottery was fixed, mainly because the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets ended up taking the number one slot (over heavily favored Charlotte). Stern took offense to this question and promptly asked Rome, “Do you still beat your wife?” Now, I’m sure Romey doesn’t beat his wife – the Comish was basically saying Romey’s question was an unfair attempt to get a “cheap thrill”, or a rise out him.
First of all, I love Jim Rome. I think he at times goes out of his way to get his hands on a juicy story, as all journalists do, but that being said I think he was completely within his rights for asking the question.
Look, whether or not the draft is fixed is really beside the point. The NBA is a bogus business where small market teams rarely have a chance against the more popular big market squads like Miami and LA. Heck, David Stern built his empire around Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, who were both, incidentally, participants in many of the NBA Finals that distinguished Stern’s career. If a team like, say, the Utah Jazz rose up and dominated the NBA in the 1980s I’m pretty sure professional basketball wouldn’t be where it is today. Is the game fixed? Sure. Are there phantom, if not outright bogus, calls made during pivotal games to ensure a team like Miami gains an upper hand? Absolutely. It’s no secret the NBA’s most loved and marketable player happened to land six championships in the 90s …
That doesn’t mean Stern is sitting back, pulling the strings on a nightly basis. I think the league has certain teams they’d like to see in the Finals, as they generate plenty of publicity and revenue, and I also believe refs are instructed to keep franchise players out of harms way … Does that give bigger teams an edge? Sure (just ask Milsap, the undisputed king of no-calls) … But Stern cannot FIX games. He merely ensures the safety of his product.
As for the draft itself, I think if the NBA want us to believe that there is no “fixing” going on then they should bring out the ball-machine-thingy … let us see how the picks are chosen live and go from there. Why hide the selection process if there’s nothing to hide? From that perspective it’s easy to see where journalists like Rome are getting a little antsy and curious about the league’s integrity (especially in the wake of last year’s shocking, but uplifting Cleveland Cavaliers victory).
The NBA is a big market business that handles billions of dollars each year. The whole bit with ex-ref Tim Donaghy a mere few years ago, plus the whole LeBron James fiasco, coupled with the endless cheap calls geared towards Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and LBJ make it harder to take professional basketball seriously. (On a side note, why doesn’t the NBA fine refs for bad calls? Not only would that legitimize their system, it would end the constant flopping that plagues the league … or better yet, get rid of the officials, or utilize the billions of cameras stationed around the arena to ensure proper call-making. Do something!)
Stern didn’t need to go off on Rome. It wasn’t a loaded question, but a worthy topic that no journalist should pass up. I don’t think Rome was looking for a “cheap thrill” but rather giving Stern an opportunity to wipe out the murky stench hanging above the NBA. Stern’s reactions (and believe me when I say: I love the Commish and know he’s done wonders for the league) only give way to more questions. If there was nothing to worry about, why the angry rebuke? A simple no would’ve sufficed. It’s kind of like when you ask your kid if they’re lying and they get all defensive … If they’re in the clear, there’s nothing to get defensive about.