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NBA Games Where the Referees are to Blame

1434 views March 2, 2023
by TJ

There are NBA games where you can only shake your head and watch the referees officiate the match in the crappiest way possible.

It became so outright recently that Lebron James and his Los Angeles Lakers missed on a much-needed win against the Boston Celtics last Saturday, January 29, at the TD Garden Arena. 

In the final seconds of regulation, the referees missed a foul on James’ layup attempt, which should have sent the 38-year-old star to the line and closed the game. Instead, the game went overtime, and the Lakers lost 125-121.

The National Basketball Referees Association acknowledged the miscall, admitting that the Lakers forward should have been sent to the line. 

“Like everyone else, referees make mistakes,” the union said. “We made one at the end of last night’s game, and that is gut-wrenching for us. This play will weigh heavily and cause sleepless nights as we strive to be the best referees we can be.”

However, it was just one of the many mistakes their members have committed, sending fans, OKBET members, and players crying because of frustration.

Here are ten NBA games where the referees are to blame:

OKBET NBA Games where the referees are to blame

#10 – Knicks vs. Pacers (June 5, 1999)

The horrendous officiating by the referees cost the Indiana Pacers their spot in the 1999 NBA Finals. 

With just seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and the score 88-91, Larry Johnson made a three-point to tie the score. However, that is where the controversy began.

Johnson was “fouled” by Pacers star Antonio Davis, putting him into the line for a possible four-point play. He was able to complete it and upped the score by one point.

They won the game thanks to a controversial call, 92-91. In the finals, the Knicks faced the San Antonio Spurs, where they got decimated with a series standing 4-1.

#9 – Suns vs. Spurs (May 14, 2007)

Phoenix Suns star Amare Stoudemire and teammate Borris Diaw were booted off and suspended during the Western Conference semi-finals against the Spurs.

Robert Horry bodychecked Steve Nash so hard that he flew onto the scorer’s table. Filled with rage, Nash confronted Horry, and a scuffle emerged.

Stoudemire and Diaw were on the bench at that time. After seeing the tussle, the two supported their leader by standing. They did not, however, involve themselves in the altercation.

Though innocent, the two were ejected and suspended for game 5, costing them the series. The refs also gave plenty of technical fouls as if it was Christmas.

The match was one of the NBA games that fans and commentators could only blame the referees for letting the Suns lose the series.

#8 – Warriors vs. Spurs (May 14, 2017)

It was game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. It was clearly lopsided, with the Spurs leading as many as 21 points in the third quarter. That is when the unthinkable happened—having their best player injured.

Kawhi Leonard was being dominant as usual, decimating the Warrior defense. The Terminator stepped on Zaza Pachulia’s foot, injuring and rendering himself out for the rest of the series and the season.

The Dubs made a comeback to win game 1 with a 113-111 clincher. But all the media raved about was Pachulia’s dirty tactic that disadvantaged the Spurs. Worse, the foul was treated as an ordinary one instead of a flagrant one.

#7 – Celtics vs. Lakers (June 8, 2008)

Touchy fouls plagued game 2 of the 2008 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. For instance, the referees did not blow the whistle when Kevin Garnett hacked Pau Gasol. However, they quickly called a foul on Ronny Turiaf after swatting Leon Powe’s shot attempt.

The Lakers did try to tie the standing. Boston, however, won the series thanks to a little help from the referees.

#6 – Lakers vs. Celtics (June 17, 2010)

The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics became even more intense because of how the referees officiated the 2010 NBA Finals.

While all eyes are on Kobe Bryant, showing why he is one of the best in the league, it was a no-brainer there was something horrible going on in the game. Bleacher Report even described the NBA Finals as a “joke.”

Bryant keeps getting “fouled” for no reason. In fact, he attempted 15 free throws in the fourth quarter alone and kept sinking them.

In the end, the Lakers became the champions, 79-83. However, their title was criticized since many did not feel they won the game fair and square.

#5 – Lakers vs. Kings (May 31, 2002)

Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings showed how powerful referees could be.

The standing was 3-2 in favor of the Kings. In game 6, referees were quick to blow the whistle in favor of the Lakers. Two of Sacramento’s players, Scott Pollard and star Vladimir Divac, fouled out, giving the Lakers the momentum to force game 7.

Mike Bobby even received an elbow to the face but was called for a foul instead.

Tim Donaghy, a former NBA official, claimed that the organization has fixed games, particularly the ones that will drive tons of revenue. That is probably why the series went to game 7, with the Lakers winning and becoming NBA champions.

#4 – Spurs vs. Mavs (April 16, 2007)

Referees are also sensitive, which was evident in former game official Joey Crawford during the matchup between the Spurs and Mavs on April 16, 2007.

Spurs center Tim Duncan was on the bench when Crawford targeted him. He already had a technical foul given by the former ref.

When the official saw him laughing, a whistle from Crawford became the beginning of the end for Duncan’s 16-point performance. He was ejected because of his demeanor which, according to the referee, was offensive and rude.

Although Duncan was ejected, he got the last laugh as the NBA suspended Crawford for an entire season. The league also slapped him with a fine of $100, 000 and he was forced to have therapy sessions.

#3 – Trail Blazers vs. Suns (April 18, 2010)

The main focus of the match between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Phoenix Suns in game 1 of the 2010 Western Conference was, again, the NBA’s finest, Joey Crawford.

Halfway through the third quarter, a whistle can be heard from Crawford because, according to him, someone “fouled” Steve Nash. He accused Marcus Camby of committing the “act.” However, it was impossible because Camby was 15 feet away.

#2 – Grizzlies vs. Thunder (December 18, 2022)

The ejection of Ja Morant during their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder sent fans furious with how Ray Acosta was officiating.

Morant was simply talking to a fan. Nothing hostile, just a casual conversation while a Thunder player attempts a free throw. However, Acosta saw it as “offensive” or “rude” or whatever he felt and slapped Morant, his second technical of the night, which got him ejected.

#1 – Jazz vs. Bulls (June 14, 1998)

Remember the legendary move that Michael Jordan made to win Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz? Jordan was able to break off from his defender with a pull-back jumper, but did he do it in a clean way?

Apparently not. The six-time NBA champ pushed off Byron Russell to “ankle break” him and shoot an uncontested shot.

Apart from that, referees were biased, not calling infractions committed by the Bulls. There were instances where the refs ignored the shot clock violations of Chicago.

The Jazz should have won the game. Unfortunately, this is one of the NBA games where referees turned a blind eye to illegal moves like what Jordan did to Russell. If the referees officiated the game with no biases, Jordan only had five rings instead of six.


NBA teams are competing and giving their all every night. But when referees begin to interfere with the games, it will destroy the spirit and essence of why players are playing or why fans show support for basketball. If the referees do not “fix” NBA games or be too sensitive toward players, the matches will be much more fun, much more exciting—if only.

Read more: Lebron James Quickly Becomes 4th All-Time Assist Leader!

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