After batting just. He went on to win three straight titles, retire two additional times and , and demonstrate, once again, that he was the GOAT. But the retirement struck many as confounding. Jordan had recently been seen playing blackjack at an Atlantic City casino the night before a Bulls playoff game against the New York Knicks. He had also admitted to incurring substantial losses from gambling. Gambling, provided it complies with the law, is not automatically prohibited by league policy.
This is generally true of lotteries, scratch tickets, card games and slot machines. The problem for an NBA player is if his gambling relates in any way to the league's games. To put it charitably, Jordan had misrepresented the nature of his gambling activity and debts. As McCallum details, Jordan originally claimed that he had loaned money to Bouler only to later admit the money was to extinguish a gambling debt. Jordan also neglected to mention to Lacey—a former federal judge—that he had incurred substantial gambling debts to his golfing partner, Richard Esquinas.
Jordan only added fuel to the fire during his farewell press conference. Still, if we take Jordan literally, his choice of words invited suspicion. Context matters, too. The early s was a very different time in America. Gambling, and particularly sports gambling, was often viewed with apprehension and as linked to a nefarious underworld.
He was banned for life from MLB in Four years earlier, Boston College basketball players were implicated in a point shaving conspiracy. As a result of lobbying by the major pro leagues in the early '90s, Congress passed and President George H. PASPA made it illegal for 46 states to authorize sports betting.
Four states—Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana—were exempt on account of those states having already adopted sports betting practices. Yet as to the leagues, it was clear they were concerned about gambling and its influence on their sports. Conspiracy theories can be engaging but are sometimes devoid of confirmable facts. First, the intensely competitive Jordan offered a number of plausible rationales for why he wished to retire.
Sometimes what people say is what they feel. The NBA closed its investigation into Jordan two days after his retirement. Books have been written about Jordan and none has substantiated the conspiracy. Fourth, the notion that the NBA would want Jordan to step away from the game defies logic. Jordan is the most marketable player in league history. Jordan was only 30 years old when he retired in Seemingly the last thing the NBA wanted was for the face of the sport to step away.
Fifth, if the NBA wished to punish Jordan, there were collectively bargained measures available. The NBA could have warned, fined or suspended Jordan for conduct detrimental to the league. There was no need for a secret pact for Jordan to step aside. The league could have reached the same outcome without inviting the attention of conspiracy theorists. From Stern to Adam Silver, along with their top advisors, the league is run mainly by a group of highly skilled attorneys.
If nothing else, attorneys tend to care deeply about process, procedure and consistency. An unprecedented informal arrangement, particularly between the two most important people in the NBA at the time Jordan and Stern , would have sharply belied how attorneys normally operate.
Prospective franchise owners go through substantial review of their financial, personal and business dealings before they are approved. The opposite occurred: the NBA welcomed Jordan with open arms. Along the way there have been key developments. Most sports bettors and fans have always assumed that there was some kind of integrity in the games they bet on. However, a couple of recent events remind us that not everything in sports is transparent and therefore lack total integrity:.
He was so mad that he allegedly punched a whiteboard and possibly broke his hand. The anger is understandable and so is concealing an injury from an opponent. Teams and players often hide injuries from opponents. Injury disclosure is a bigger deal than ever before. As of now, they plan to offer nothing beyond the same product sportsbooks and bookies have been taking wagers on legally and illegally. Well, kinda. The positive drug test was triggered by an unrecognized substance. Whatever, shut him down!
The non-touchdown for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the New England Patriots was the most recent head-scratching call by referees. The rules will be different next NFL season but these confusing decisions will probably continue. Did the league fix a game for TV ratings or did a gambler fix a side for money?
Integrity and transparency have always been crucial to keeping the events appear to be fair. Integrity has always been important to sports. It will continue to be important when people are legally wagering on the games.
In , the Mets fired Samuels amid charges of gambling with bookies, issuing loans to himself through the club, and stealing memorabilia. Through tapping phone lines of organized crime members, it was found that several smaller futbol clubs were fixing matches in an effort to make money, beginning with Macedonian club FK Pobeda. As organized crime members were found, arrested, and charged, the pressure mounted on Patrick Neumann, captain of SC Verl and he confessed to his involvement and divulged more details of the scope of the operation.
When you think of sumo wrestling, you think of massive guys and tiny thong-like belts. As odd of a picture as it is, the sport is also known throughout the world for its religious traditions, strict code of conduct, and the integrity that it displays.
In it was discovered that up to 13 senior wrestlers had been involved in match fixing and betting on outcomes of matches. The investigation followed on the heels of police searching phone records in an illegal baseball betting operation between wrestlers and middlemen in In fact, some even worked side jobs to pay the bills! Green Bay Packers running back Paul Hornung and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras were unfortunately busted when they thought they could get away with betting on their games.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended the duo for the entire season, along with five other Detroit Lions for their parts in the scandal. Even with this checkered past, Hornung was inducted into the Hall of Fame in The scheme was simple; they would be point spreads in which there would be a large margin and Kuhn would make sure that BC did not cover the spread. As the scheme grew, Kuhn recruited two teammates to join in and the Perlas were able to bring in Henry Hill, a Lucchese crime family associate from New York.
The plan came to an end in when Hill was arrested on drug charges and he snitched on the group, ending in prison terms ranging from 10 to 30 years on racketeering and corruption charges for the parties involved. In February , the NYC district attorney arrested seven men on charges of conspiring to fix basketball games; of these men, three were stars on the CCNY championship team.
There is no doubt that former MLB player and manager Pete Rose was one of the toughest guys to ever play the game. His iconic head first sliding and short temper is a staple of what the Cincinnati Reds were during the s. However, amid years of allegations that Rose had been betting on his team while he played and managed, it was finally found that the allegations were true just three years after he retired from the game as a player.
During the World Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds, eight players were accused of intentionally throwing the series in exchange for cash. For various reasons, the players had decided to throw the series and there was evidence of massive bets coming in on the Reds before the start, causing their odds to fall rapidly.
Announcers took notes of this and kept notes on players they felt were playing out of character. By Dominic Alessi Jun 21, Share Share Tweet Email Comment. Via tracking. Those are among the factors — and you can throw in compulsive gambling issues and plain old greed, as well — that have created U.
Sports Handle put together the following list of the most notorious game-fixing, point-shaving, racketeering, unsanctioned gambling, and other seedy behavior connected to sports betting that we know of. More such events will undoubtedly, sadly earn their way onto the list in years ahead.
The Black Sox scandal has become arguably the best-known example combining sports and gambling for multiple reasons:. The rumors proved true. A faction of White Sox players harbored hostility over their treatment by owner Charles Comiskey, although the team actually had one of the highest payrolls in the league. First baseman Chuck Gandil led them in a plan to accept thousands of dollars from gamblers tied to organize crime.
Not all of the White Sox were in on the scheme, and they climbed back from a series deficit by winning the next two games before succumbing in the eighth game. The players involved also reportedly became angry at failure to receive agreed-upon payments and abandoned the plot, at least temporarily, after the fifth game. A grand jury that investigated in indicted eight players and five gamblers. Jackson was among those charged even though he batted.
A jury in August acquitted all eight players of anything criminal, but new baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis nonetheless banned all eight from professional baseball for life based on the confessional statements from a number of them. Rose was widely heralded in 24 seasons as a player, but his downfall came as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in An MLB investigation found he had been regularly betting on baseball games in violation of league rules for years, including placing wagers on his own team.
Rose agreed to an indefinite ban from the sport in while maintaining he was not guilty of baseball betting. His denials continued for years until admitting in a autobiography, My Prison Without Bars , that he was a frequent bettor, though never against his own team. He applied unsuccessfully for reinstatement from the league ban in , , and An investigation in of organized crime involvement in paying players to shave points found a total of 33 players at seven schools had participated between and The scheme had its genesis in point-shaving first done at summer league games played by collegiate players in the Catskills.
As in most such cases, the players cooperated with prosecutors and received no prison time for their involvement, while the illegal bookmakers and their gambling associates went to jail. He pleaded guilty a month after his suspension to federal charges of conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce. Donaghy was involved in a scheme with two longtime suburban Philadelphia acquaintances who were looking to wager on games he was officiating.
He would supply them information, they would place bets based on it, and he would be paid off if the game resulted in their desired outcome. It was never proven that Donaghy tailored his calls to favor a certain team or point total, but he was found to have himself bet on many of the games he was working. He has alleged multiple times that other referees are influenced by the NBA to favor certain game outcomes or star players with the intent of maximizing TV ratings and revenue, but no evidence of it has been found and the league has denied it.
It cost him 28 months of his life, the portion he served of a year prison sentence. Kuhn was at the center of an arrangement with shady acquaintances from his hometown in suburban Pittsburgh to receive payment for shaving points in games on which they would bet. He enlisted at least one teammate to help. In an intriguing twist, the Pittsburgh acquaintances had a connection to Henry Hill , the character played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas , and they enlisted him to help finance the scheme.
The conspiracy was exposed by Hill two years after it occurred when he became a federal informant due to connection to far bigger crimes — drug trafficking and the Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Their first eight games involving bets against Boston College resulted in four wins, two losses and two pushes. They put their largest sum of money yet on a ninth game, Holy Cross vs. Nearly two decades later, Boston College athletics suffered another stain when 13 members of the football squad were suspended for betting on sports, including two who bet against their own team in a game vs.
Paul Hornung and Alex Karras did not fall into the category of corrupt point-shaving, but their status as NFL stars made their gambling-connected suspensions for the entirety of a major story. Karras was established by as one of the top defensive linemen in the league, a colorful Detroit Lions tackle who would make four Pro Bowls in a year career. But both of them liked to gamble, including wagers on football games in violation of NFL policy.
The bets were no more than hundreds of dollars and were never against their own teams, but Commissioner Pete Rozelle made an example of the two stars by banning them for a full season. Karras, who would receive additional celebrity status years later as an actor who knocked out a horse in Blazing Saddles , supposedly made light of the suspension when a referee asked him to pick heads or tails for a pre-game coin toss in The school shut the program down for the rest of the decade.
In the two games, Tulane, a so-so team, lost to Memphis State by 11 as a 6-point underdog and only beat Southern Mississippi by 1 as a 9-point favorite. The conspiracy was discovered due to a suspicious level of betting done by Tulane students in Las Vegas at the time. He was acquitted of charges, however, and went on to play for 13 years in the NBA. While head coach Ned Fowler had no knowledge of the point shaving, he admitted that he and assistants had been paying players.
Gambling, and particularly sports gambling, was often viewed with apprehension and as linked to a nefarious underworld. He was banned for life from MLB in Four years earlier, Boston College basketball players were implicated in a point shaving conspiracy. As a result of lobbying by the major pro leagues in the early '90s, Congress passed and President George H. PASPA made it illegal for 46 states to authorize sports betting. Four states—Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana—were exempt on account of those states having already adopted sports betting practices.
Yet as to the leagues, it was clear they were concerned about gambling and its influence on their sports. Conspiracy theories can be engaging but are sometimes devoid of confirmable facts. First, the intensely competitive Jordan offered a number of plausible rationales for why he wished to retire. Sometimes what people say is what they feel. The NBA closed its investigation into Jordan two days after his retirement.
Books have been written about Jordan and none has substantiated the conspiracy. Fourth, the notion that the NBA would want Jordan to step away from the game defies logic. Jordan is the most marketable player in league history.
Jordan was only 30 years old when he retired in Seemingly the last thing the NBA wanted was for the face of the sport to step away. Fifth, if the NBA wished to punish Jordan, there were collectively bargained measures available. The NBA could have warned, fined or suspended Jordan for conduct detrimental to the league. There was no need for a secret pact for Jordan to step aside. The league could have reached the same outcome without inviting the attention of conspiracy theorists.
From Stern to Adam Silver, along with their top advisors, the league is run mainly by a group of highly skilled attorneys. If nothing else, attorneys tend to care deeply about process, procedure and consistency. An unprecedented informal arrangement, particularly between the two most important people in the NBA at the time Jordan and Stern , would have sharply belied how attorneys normally operate.
Prospective franchise owners go through substantial review of their financial, personal and business dealings before they are approved. The opposite occurred: the NBA welcomed Jordan with open arms. Along the way there have been key developments. In , the league endured a painful wagering scandal. Referee Tim Donaghy was implicated in a scheme that involved using in-game foul calls to manipulate total points. The league learned from the Donaghy scandal.
It became more vigilant in studying point discrepancies that could indicate the presence of an improper plot. At the same, the NBA has gradually embraced the industry of sports betting. Justice Department in an unsuccessful effort to limit the number of states with legal sports betting. In the early s, this group pursued federal litigation to block New Jersey from legalizing sports betting in contravention of PASPA.
Yet in , Silver penned an op-ed for The New York Times in which he argued the federal government should allow states to legalize sports betting so long those states adopt safeguards. Supreme Court entered the story in a big way. In , the Court ruled in Murphy v. The ruling paved the way for states to legalize sports betting. So far, 17 states have done so. Others will soon join them. Since , the NBA has increased its business ties to the gaming and wagering industries.
The league has also landed betting data partnership agreements with Sportradar and Genius Sports. Favored by 6, the visiting Wizards covering Battista on March 16 strung out and sleepless at Martino's house and surrounded suddenly by almost his entire immediate family. An intervention Battista two days later wearing a bathrobe in rehab. Phil Scala had been investigating organized crime in New York City for almost 30 years when his squad received the tip.
Based in an anonymous office building in Kew Gardens, Queens, Scala and his agents had spent years assembling a network of informants inside the gang. And now, Scala would later tell me, one of the squad's snitches had divulged this new tip, too delicious to be ignored. An NBA referee, according to the informant, was "in the pocket" of some people in the sports-gambling underworld. The informant didn't know any names, and the people with the ref in their pocket did not appear to be made members of the Gambino crime family.
But the crucial betting information -- which sides of which games the ref favored -- had been seeping into the black-market gambling business. In particular, a crew of Gambino thugs in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn had figured out the formula and was supposedly, from what this informant had heard, winning millions on this ref's games. Illegal sports gambling was not Scala's focus. But stomping out a Mafia profit center was.
Scala reached the FBI's mandatory retirement age in and is now a private detective based on Long Island. But he has kept the investigative notes he took on his FBI cases, including the Donaghy case. Not long ago, he brought them out, looked at them and told me about them over the phone. When I asked if I could see the notes myself, he laughed. Scala's squad went to work. Phone records of gamblers said to have connections with the Gambino crime family were obtained and analyzed, phone numbers traced back to names.
As Scala told me, "If you can envision a spiderweb -- it might not be directly, but one or two or three spheres out, you find a name. And then one afternoon the case agent came into my office. He said, 'We found the guy. We found the referee. They knew all about what he'd done, they told him; he was looking at 20 years.
Better to cooperate. Lawyer , Battista replied. Just before entering rehab, according to Martino and law enforcement documents, Battista had handed over the reins of the operation to Rhino Ruggieri. Ruggieri was to play the same role Battista had -- mover, fund manager. Ruggieri did not respond to requests for comment. But soon enough, Martino says, Rhino learned about the nature of Battista's deal with Donaghy. He and the other Animals who'd been following the bets were not happy.
By now the spreads were moving violently. Word about Donaghy had permeated the market, followers following followers. Battista "was just ruining something that was totally quiet, that nobody knew about," said one of the Animals. It was like: Why would you do that? In any case, Ruggieri before long decided to shut the whole thing down.
The final game, Martino remembers, was a loss. The effort to hide it was in vain. A grand jury in the case had been convened as early as February, according to FBI documents, and on May 30, Tommy Martino testified before it. Hours later, he called up Donaghy to tell him. In his memoir, Donaghy writes that he was standing on the first tee at his home golf club in Sarasota with a driver in his hands when he took the call from Martino.
His body turned numb. He thought he was having a heart attack. The agents informed Stern that it had come to their attention that one of their veteran refs, Tim Donaghy, had been betting on his own games and giving inside information to a gambling ring, for a fee. The Feds made no mention of game-fixing. The commissioner promised the league's full cooperation. Today, Scala considers that meeting a mistake. I would not have gone to brief Stern," Scala told me.
Through the NBA, Stern declined an interview request for this story. In Donaghy's many conversations with the Feds through these weeks, he had begun pointing fingers and making allegations about other referees -- other refs who may have been corrupt.
So the FBI had worked out a plan. Namely, they were going to wire up Donaghy so he could get other allegedly corrupted NBA referees to incriminate themselves. Things may have been different. That's the bottom line. Scala, at the time, was livid. He even contacted Murray Weiss, the Post reporter who wrote the story, to uncover the source of the leak.
But Weiss, a veteran newsman, protected his source. It came from above,' " Scala recalls. Scala won't say whether he believes the NBA leaked the story. But Warren Flagg, a private investigator and former FBI agent who worked with Donaghy's attorney during the case, will.
To shut it down. Weiss disputes that; he told me his tipster wasn't affiliated with the NBA "as far as I know. I was told, 'They're the kind of people who will do anything they can to protect themselves and the game.
Among them: Who made the real money? Who besides Donaghy, Battista and Martino was in on it? There have been hints and suggestions. There's also Scala, who told me he heard from his informants that underground gamblers "could have been making over a hundred million dollars" on Donaghy's games. Perhaps this is why the men who formed Battista's loose, disorderly investor group, the men who were "on the ticket," have, for all these years, remained in the shadows.
They were the gamblers and bookmakers closest to Battista. They were among his biggest brokerage clients and most trusted outs. Whether or not Battista made them explicitly aware of his agreement with Donaghy, their money was used to make one very specific genre of bet: games refereed by Tim Donaghy. They were the real moneymakers of the Donaghy scheme. One of them was a man nicknamed Tiger. By most accounts, Tony "Tiger" Rufo is no longer a gambler.
Over the course of the past decade, he's built a company that has become one of the biggest Planet Fitness franchisees in the nation, with more than 30 locations and exclusive rights to the regions of Philadelphia and Chicago. Rufo declined to comment for this story. One of Rufo's business partners in the gyms was his old Animals colleague Rhino Ruggieri.
The management entity that controls the gyms is registered as Rhino Holdings, and according to its articles of incorporation, it was formed in Delaware County in February Another man who profited off Donaghy was a well-known New York and South Florida bookie and whale who sometimes went by the nickname Popeye on account of his oversize forearms.
He was a man who was, as they say, connected; a man from whose open hotel room window once dangled a person in debt to a Bonanno crime family member; a man whose clients included Hollywood celebrities; and a man who, back in June of , had sat with Battista in a VIP box at Citizens Bank Park for an interleague Phillies-Yankees game. These games would be mostly winners, so Popeye should feel free to move them -- and copy them too. Popeye, no dummy, asked the obvious question: Who's the handicapper behind these games?
And Battista, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not smartly, gave him the truth. Popeye's eyes grew wide. Popeye, who died of heart disease in at age 61, was born in Manhattan and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, but remained estranged from most of his family for most of the rest of his life. Popeye's real name was Taylor Breton, and he was the great-great-grandson of Marcus Goldman, the founder, in , of Goldman Sachs. Another key figure was Joseph "Joe Vito" Mastronardo, a major black-market bookie who served as Battista's most significant out.
Married to the daughter of powerful Philly mayor Frank Rizzo, who held office in the s, Mastronardo was well-connected. He had many lucrative gambling-related businesses. He served, for example, as a kind of shadow bank for the global underground gambling industry.
For that reason, he had a lot of cash on hand. The last time he was arrested, the police dug up his yard and found sections of PVC pipe buried there. To help get his clients' bets down, Battista as a bet broker needed Joe Vito. That's why, according to someone close to both men, Battista had no choice but to apprise Mastronardo of the Donaghy situation, to tell Joe Vito that this ref was picking sides in his own games-and, most likely, using his whistle to help the bet win.
Joe Vito cannot speak to that today; he was busted in at age 63 for illegal bookmaking in an unrelated federal case. In , Mastronardo had a stroke and died in prison. Another moneymaker -- according to people with knowledge of the events -- was a man named Spiros Athanas. Born in Greece in , a Boston street bookie in the s, Athanas by the late s had moved to Jamaica, where he turned himself into a sharp bettor and bookmaker on a global scale.
According to multiple sources, Battista first began moving bets for Athanas in And at some point, per a person close to the situation, Battista had to tell Athanas, a heavy NBA bettor, that Battista believed he had a profitable edge; a different person close to Athanas' syndicate a decade ago told me that Athanas bet more heavily on Donaghy's games in the season than he did on other NBA games.
In , Athanas was indicted as part of a federal sports-betting case that was unrelated to Donaghy. One morning in early July , Ronnie Nunn was asleep in a hotel room in Las Vegas when his cellphone buzzed him awake. Nunn, then the director of NBA officials, was in town for the NBA summer league games held annually among the casinos, where referee candidates from the minors are assessed for possible promotion to the Show.
Litvin's tone was urgent. Had Nunn heard anything about Donaghy's resignation? Had he heard about Donaghy's gambling "issues" -- about what he had done? Now sitting bolt upright, Nunn answered "no" to all the questions.
Litvin then filled him in on the worst of it and told him there was an ongoing investigation, instructing him to say nothing about any of it to anyone. Then he hung up. A few weeks later, four days after the Post story broke, David Stern gave his first news conference. His messaging was clear: Donaghy was a rogue. He'd acted alone. This was an episode of gambling, yes, but almost assuredly not match-fixing.
Stern's conclusion that Donaghy did not fix games would be validated by the federal investigation. Donaghy, in August , and Martino, in April , would plead guilty to two charges: conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to transmit gambling information. Battista would cut a deal, pleading guilty in April only to the charge of transmission of gambling information. Martino would receive a year and Donaghy and Battista 15 months each in federal prison. But while Donaghy would admit to betting on his own games in his plea agreement, he would not admit to fixing games.
With a team of four young lawyers, Pedowitz took a little over a year to conduct the probe and write up the findings in a page report. Pedowitz, who has retired from his firm, did not respond to requests for comment. David Anders, an attorney who helped Pedowitz run the investigation, declined to comment.
His brief was to audit the entire NBA referee program for corruption, but he also had a narrower goal: figuring out whether Donaghy had indeed fixed games. And, if he did, what was his method? To answer those questions, Pedowitz convened a group of NBA basketball operations personnel to watch games worked by Donaghy during the season -- but the ensuing report did not fully explain the limited number of games they decided to review.
The FBI had discovered that Donaghy had wagered on as many as 40 of his own games with Concannon during each of the three seasons between and Based on information from Tommy Martino, among others, there were reasons to suspect Donaghy had money on the vast majority of his games during the fateful season, from the very beginning until as late as April 11 -- 65 games in all. Yet the number of games reviewed by Pedowitz's group of NBA employees was only In this, Pedowitz followed the lead of federal investigators, who had analyzed video of Donaghy's games -- recruiting Nunn himself to review eight of them -- based on Donaghy's admission to the Feds that he'd wagered on just 16 of his own games in the final season of his career.
The Feds never said which 16 games they were, so Pedowitz's team had to deduce them from court documents and FBI requests for game videos, and the set of possible games it came up with was The NBA employees "examined every play and determined whether, in their view, Donaghy's calls or absence of calls were correct. Just one game of potential funny business out of 17 wasn't nearly enough to accuse the referee of anything. And so, in the end, on the question of whether Donaghy fixed, Pedowitz upheld the findings of the U.
Attorney's Office -- which never charged him with such crimes. But Scala, the FBI agent who pursued the case, has doubts. That never really flew with us. This notion even found its way into the Pedowitz report itself. Scala recalls that he and Donaghy went around and around on the issue. All those gray-area decisions you have to make, Tim?
Because you're betting on the game, your judgment is off -- and you threw the game. Still, in Scala's telling, the FBI eventually just had to move on. Short of an outright confession, how could you prove that Donaghy had fixed the games anyway? And what more did you want? The guy's career was ruined and his life in shambles. They'd shut down a Gambino profit center.
They were an organized crime squad, dealing with murder and mayhem. They had to get back to it. The Feds' job, on this one, was done. The NBA did too. It's impossible,'" Scala says. Too many invested observers -- referee supervisors, coaches, players, owners, media, fans -- would be too quick to complain if they saw something fishy, the NBA argued.
But as Scala put it, "When someone tells you something's impossible, you know they're full of s, because nothing's impossible. But that was the company line. Simply put, to show that Donaghy fixed games would suggest that it's easier for gamblers to manipulate games than any sports league would want to admit. Conspiracy theories about corrupted refs have dogged the league for decades. For that reason, the NBA is particularly wary of any hint of the fix.
Even if it made them strange bedfellows, then, Donaghy's denials of match-fixing guilt were, in the end, a gift. After Donaghy, the NBA put into place a host of new measures designed to detect any nascent game-fixing schemes. They included a beefed-up computerized system for monitoring refs' foul calls; enhanced scrutiny of betting-line fluctuations that might reveal suspicious wagering; the hiring of staff with experience in law enforcement, security and data analysis; and even the cultivation of tipsters within the sports-gambling industry who could relay rumors of possible corruption.
But at the time the scandal broke, the NBA closed ranks. Lamell McMorris served as the lead negotiator for the referees' union in its collective bargaining with the league. It was either sink or swim together for all of us. When the FBI began interviewing Donaghy's referee colleagues, the agents, according to Scala, eventually spoke to perhaps 10 of them. According to the FBI's investigation files, obtained in an FOIA request, some referees had to be served with subpoenas before they would talk to the Feds.
The notes taken by the agents during these interviews have a mantra-like similarity: "recalled feeling 'shocked' when he learned about Donaghy To this day, what amounts to something like a self-imposed gag order on the subject of Donaghy persists, even among those refs who no longer work for the league. To discuss Donaghy with more than a dozen of them now is to sense that their silence has more to do with the fact that they hate the guy. None of them says anymore that Donaghy "was a good ref.
Don't be fishing, because you ain't getting anything out of me. I refuse to talk about him. Or even put him in any kind of limelight at all. It's despicable. Not every retired referee is reticent. There is, for one, Ed T.
Rush, former NBA director of officials, a Philadelphia native and, for 32 years, a referee at the highest level, starting in When Donaghy was still slogging it in the minors in the early s, Rush had taken it upon himself to mentor his young fellow Philadelphian. The Philly ref blood runs deep. And he could have been. After the scandal, Rush was among those NBA personnel tasked by Pedowitz with reviewing a set of Donaghy games for evidence of game-fixing.
Rush recalls watching maybe 10 such games. What did he see? When I asked, I expected Rush to answer much the same as Nunn had to me: Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to see here. Move along. Instead, he surprised me. In the early s, Rush went on to explain, the NBA undertook a wholesale revision of its refereeing guidelines, changes that would naturally lead to the entire NBA referee corps calling a greater volume of fouls, at least initially.
All this occurred while Rush was director of officials, from to Then people settle in. But Donaghy didn't settle in. Rush, as director of refs, took notice but didn't think much of it at the time. It was only later, in , after Donaghy had been exposed, that Donaghy's letter-of-the-law foul-calling acquired a darker hue. Watching games for Pedowitz, Rush noticed the same propensity to call "literally interpreted" fouls in situations where they were not warranted -- ones that ran counter to the flow of the game.
Only this time, Rush viewed these calls with suspicion. Still, as Rush explained to me over the phone, these were just "trends," not "red flags," and the NBA and the Pedowitz people were interested only in red flags. A play that had to be called one way and that [Donaghy] called the other way. That's what they were looking for. I didn't find it. In the end, Rush felt there was no need to relay his observations to the Pedowitz people. He felt the trends were embodied in the stats: The volume of Donaghy's calls was noticeable; it must be obvious to all.
And so nothing about any of this would end up in Pedowitz's final report. What does it mean to "fix" a game? And how, in turn, could you uncover evidence of it years, even a decade, later? The methods of fixing are rather straightforward. A player who's on the take can shave points, purposely missing baskets, say, in an effort to lower the score for his side. A ref, on the other hand, can effectively add points -- calling fouls that result in free throws.
And if a ref were to target one particular team with fouls, he could push the score for the opposing side higher than it otherwise would be. So where to begin? Donaghy officiated in 40 games between the marriage on Dec. We began by obtaining the trading histories for those games and through those determined which team was the more heavily bet upon.
Furthermore, exceedingly large price jumps or plunges, or even the timing of certain price moves, could signal the trading strategies of a gambling syndicate. For all their desire to ply their trade in secrecy, sophisticated gambling syndicates often leave traces. Through them, we deduced which side Donaghy had picked for Battista to bet on. Next, we pulled game videos for all 40 games and employed a researcher with an extensive background in officiating to watch them closely, logging all of Donaghy's and his fellow referees' foul calls.
Of those calls, 2. It is normal, of course, for a referee to call more fouls against one team than the other. There will almost always be an imbalance of calls. But examine that imbalance against the financial imbalances discovered in the trading histories-which side received the heavier betting -- and the important comparison isn't between Donaghy's foul calls and the team that won the game. The important comparison is to the team that received the greater amount of betting dollars.
Once we completed all of that, what we uncovered was that Donaghy's foul calls favored the team that received the heavier betting 70 percent of the time. But we also found that in 10 games during that game span, one team was defeating the other team to such a degree that the spread was rarely in doubt.
A referee wishing to manipulate game scores on these occasions would likely find he lacked much ability to sway the matter -- or the need to do so, if the score was already in his favor. And so, controlling for blowouts by removing those games from the ledger, what we ultimately found was this: Donaghy favored the side that attracted more betting dollars in 23 of those 30 competitive games, or 77 percent of the time. In four games, he called the game neutrally, The number of games in which Tim Donaghy favored the team that attracted fewer betting dollars?
And they are. When presented with that data, ESPN statisticians crunched the numbers and revealed: The odds that Tim Donaghy would have randomly made calls that produced that imbalance are 6,to We also passed along our data to Keith Crank, who served for 15 years as the program director in statistics and probability at the National Science Foundation. To control for bias, he performed what's called a hypothesis test on these numbers, which would produce a P value, or a probability, for Donaghy's calls in each game in the season.
He then did the same set of calculations for the other two referees on the floor in each of Donaghy's games. Crank's method boasted a certain elegance: It would capture any bias a ref might display in as simple a way as possible. Blowouts would be included. No line-movement data would be required. Crank then calculated the P value for just Donaghy's calls for the entirety of the season in question.
It was 0. In other words, there was a Unlikely but not outrageously so. But Crank didn't stop there. There was, after all, that definitive frame within the season: the 40 games between the beginning of the marriage and the end of Battista's involvement. And if you exclude two split-foul calls -- the same foul called by two refs simultaneously and credited to both -- the P value for Donaghy's calls in that set of games was 0.
To professional statisticians, any P value of less than 5 percent constitutes a signal that is "significant. In our case, it means there's just a 4. All of our efforts were focused on understanding precisely what he did and how he did it so we would be best equipped to protect the integrity of our games going forward.
The NBA wouldn't share the specifics of those statistical analyses, but it did describe them in summary form. According to the league, the studies were based on "the entirety of the period during which Donaghy had admitted to gambling on games," including games refereed by Donaghy himself, and entailed examinations of "officiating accuracy," "lopsided [foul] calling and the magnitude of lopsidedness," the timing of his calls during games, foul-call "streaks" and call volumes, along with an analysis of "all associated betting lines and movements.
Privately, however, he has at times taken a different position. Ever since Donaghy emerged from prison in , he has lived in the same unit in a town house apartment complex in Sarasota. He has given up making betting picks for a tout service, which he did for a time after his release from prison. His income now reportedly comes from rental properties he owns.
But before Donaghy even got out of prison, an imprint of Random House was reportedly set to publish his memoir. Donaghy then found another publisher: a small, independent, newly established outfit -- so new that Personal Foul would be its inaugural volume -- based in Tampa, Florida, and operated by a political consultant and publicist named Shawna Vercher. That relationship would eventually turn acrimonious, winding up in court, with Donaghy successfully suing Vercher in and accusing her of stealing his book proceeds.
But the genesis of their falling-out occurred when Donaghy was still making the rounds to promote the book, according to documents filed in court as part of the lawsuit. The falling-out involved a polygraph test. Vercher told me that, in December , after questioning from reporters, including ones from ESPN, she had wanted Donaghy to take a polygraph that asked point-blank whether he'd fixed games.
Donaghy said he couldn't do that, Vercher recalled in a deposition. His attorneys, he told her, had advised him not to. Vercher asked him why. It took a second for me to comprehend what Martino was telling me. Martino couldn't remember, not exactly. Martino did recall Donaghy telling him that certain games would be unfixable. In Martino's words, "Blowouts, he can't control.
Because then "you gotta call a lot of fouls," Martino said. This was a few years after Donaghy's release from prison. A close observer of basketball, the gambler had become acutely curious after suffering losses on Donaghy-reffed games during that season. The gambler described the conversation with Donaghy to me on the condition that I not use his name in the story.
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