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Irish Coffee: NBA conspiracy theories

10.13.10 at 10:28 am ET

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

It’s time for a conspiracy theory. I’m sure you’ve all heard about Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals between the Kings and Lakers — one of several games former NBA ref Tim Donaghy accused the NBA of rigging in order to squeeze an extra game out of the series. Well, after yesterday’s unrelated arrest of one of the Lakers-Kings Game referees, let’s take a look at the aftermath … again.

  • On July 20, 2007, New York Post columnist Murray Weiss reported an FBI investigation into Donaghy for betting on NBA games he officiated.
  • On Feb. 11, 2008, one Kings-Lakers Game 6 referee, Bob Delaney, spoke with ESPN about his upcoming book, “Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob.” The former New Jersey State Police trooper admitted to these criminal activities during his investigation: “stolen property, loan sharking, gambling, purchasing of guns.”
  • On June 11, 2008, The New York Times cited court documents in which Donaghy called out NBA executives and referees for manipulating games, including the 2002 series in question. Keep in mind, Donaghy had already pleaded guilty to conspiring with gamblers at this point.
  • On June 13, 2008, we learned from ESPN’s Chris Sheridan that the FBI questioned at least two former NBA referees about another Lakers-Kings Game 6 ref, Dick Bavetta, more than they did Donaghy. In that report, the game’s third ref, Tim Bernhardt, said: “I stand by my calls in that game. I was right on. I believe in Dick Bavetta, and I believe in Bob Delaney, and I believe in the NBA for that matter.”
  • On Dec. 8, 2009, in an interview with Dennis & Callahan, Donaghy said, “I had many conversations with Dick Bavetta and he claimed that he was the NBA’€™s go-to guy and he was put on certain games to make sure a certain team win.”
  • On Oct. 12, 2010, according to, Bernhardt was arrested in Indiana for violating a restraining order taken out against him by his ex-girlfriend and allegedly burglarizing her residence.

So, to recap the facts, in the last three years the refereeing trio of Kings-Lakers Game 6 has: a) admitted to gambling with the mob, albeit during an investigation as a New Jersey State Police officer (Delaney); b) been the subject of the FBI’s questioning during their investigation into NBA referees (Bavetta); and c) been arrested and charged with burglary and violating a restraining order (Bernhardt).

While none of those incidents implicates any of the three officials or directly relates to the outcome of any NBA game, including Kings-Lakers Game 6, I give you this — in Delaney’s own words — from an interview with ESPN’s Bob Ley: “I have dealt with criminals and informants, and I know full well they are capable of doing and saying anything.”

Now, I know there are more holes in this story than there were in Sonny Corleone‘s car, but that’s why it’s called a conspiracy theory, right?


A Michigan teenager named after Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal was arrested and charged with armed robbery, according to The Saginaw News.

Shaquille O’Neal Baskin (no relation), 17, was also charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery. No conspiracy theory here. Just coincidence.


Michael Rosenberg might have The Real Shaq mixed up with Shaquille O’Neal Baskin. The Sports Illustrated reporter believes that Shaq has gotten a pass throughout his career for one simple reason: He’s funny.

“So the world wonders why anybody would sign loafer Manny Ramirez, why the Vikings would want selfish, grumpy Randy Moss,” he wrote. “Meanwhile Shaq — who shares some of their least attractive qualities — goes to the Celtics, and people want it to work. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all signed with the Heat this summer to make it easier to win a championship. Shaq once left a contending team in Orlando for a rebuilding one in L.A. because he wanted a lifestyle change. He wanted to live among the stars. This never meant too much to him, and if that cost him a championship or two (and a half-dozen MVP awards) … well, that’s the price you pay for being loved by earthlings.”

Talk about conspiracy theories. First of all, I’m sure there’s a reason Rosenberg only used one-time Boston stars as examples of athletes gone bad.

Secondly, he does realize that the “rebuilding” L.A. team that Shaq went to (as a free agent, mind you) won the first of three straight titles just three years after he signed in L.A., right? And there was a guy in the Eastern Conference by the name of Michael Jordan who stood in the way of him and the NBA finals at the time.

Now, I totally agree with Rosenberg that Shaq is past his prime, and then some, but there’s no secret there. I’m guessing the Celtics wouldn’t have been able to sign him for the veteran league minimum if he were still an MVP candidate. The only people being fooled by Shaq are, well, fools.


Thanks to Hakeem Olajuwon, Magic center Dwight Howard has added some new offensive moves to his game and adopted a more serious approach.

“I got a chance to analyze his behavior,” Olajuwon told the Associated Press. “You see the athletic ability and power, but you don’t see a lot of creativity offensively. He just can’t be afraid to open up his game.”

AP writer Antonio Gonzalez insinuated that Shaq’s repeated jabs — in addition to LeBron James‘ presence in Florida and comments from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — are the reason for the newlook Howard.

Shaq’s comments included this to “You tell me who the real Superman is. Don’t compare me to nobody. I’d rather not be mentioned. I’m offended.”

So, the reason Howard wanted to get better was not to get by the Celtics in the Eastern Conference or win an NBA title, but to prove who the real Superman is? Talk about getting a pass.

Read More: Dwight Howard, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Bernhardt, Tim Donaghy
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