A weekly feature in which Tim Donaghy, the former NBA referee who spent 11 months in prison for relaying inside information to gamblers, tells us a sad gambling story. The standard caveats apply.
April 22, 2006. Game 1 of the Bulls-Heat series. Three well-respected referees were assigned to the game, and I was the alternate. The spread was Miami by nine, and I think I teased the game down to 5.5. In the pregame meetings, our group supervisor told us to expect Chicago to play physical with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. We talked about not allowing the Bulls to get rough and a bunch of other stuff, and I thought Miami was at a clear advantage, based on what the league wanted in the game. So I told my buddy to bet Miami. Three grand.
Let's back up. The night before, one of these refs, a veteran of the profession, had a lot of beers. A LOT. It was what we used to call an "ice-bucket night." It's a funny story: This ref once asked me why I didn't drink. And I said that when I do, I go to the bathroom all night and never get any sleep. "Just do what I do," he said. "Put the ice bucket next to the bed and piss in it all night." He was totally serious. After that, every time I went to a hotel, I threw the ice bucket out in the hall. Didn't matter what hotel I was in. Maybe he'd been in that room a week or two prior — you never know. I was on the road with this guy once, and I remember opening up the door one morning and seeing an ice bucket there, filled with piss. He'd left it there just to screw with me. That motherfucker's crazy, I thought.
Anyway, on April 21, he had an ice-bucket night, and the next day, he was hung over, and I knew he was not gonna take any shit from the Bulls. The NBA didn't want the game to be very physical, and with Skiles and Nocioni and Chandler, I thought for sure he'd snap on Chicago at some point. Boy was I wrong. What happened was, he snapped on Miami instead. In the first half, Udonis Haslem goes to the basket and thinks he gets fouled. Haslem turns around and starts jawing at the ref. He says something back to Haslem. Haslem takes his mouthpiece out, throws it at the ref, and gets royally tossed. The ref then goes over to the scorer's table. The radio announcer says something to him, and the ref tells him to go fuck himself. Now he's really pissed. At halftime, Miami's up by 12, and the ref storms into the locker room, saying: "Fuck Miami. Fuck that owner. Fuck that radio guy. Fuck 'em all." I'm doing everything I can to calm him down, because I dropped a wad on Miami. He goes out in the second half, still pissed, and all of a sudden the lead evaporates. Chicago's raining in threes like crazy. I'm in the locker room watching on television, thinking, "I'm fucked." Miami's leading by four in the last few seconds, and Antoine Walker gets fouled. Makes one, misses one. They don't cover by half a point. And I'm out three grand partly because my colleague, the venerable ref, had an ice-bucket night and got pissed at the wrong team.
Tim Donaghy is a former NBA referee and the author of Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal That Rocked the NBA. Follow him on Facebook here.