NBA Players v. Refs

So, let me get this straight. The NBA is attempting to fix the rocky relationship between players and coaches with some “respect for the game” nonsense? Even better, let’s have our heads of officiating conduct meetings with all 30 teams, just to let the players know they don’t interpret the rules correctly! And to top it all off, lets sprinkle in some “conflict resolution” training for the league officials. I’m sure all of these steps will make a drastic change in the on court tension.

Look, I love the NBA. For all the people out there who say “the league was better back in my day”, maybe that’s true. But it’s only true from a top to bottom competition standpoint. The NBA is the most entertaining it has ever been. You can say that Golden State is the dominant force in the NBA, and there is no parity, and you may be right. But this version of the Warriors isn’t as dominant as last years. If the Cavaliers can learn to play defense again, they have a chance. The Rockets and Celtics have a chance, and as long as Russell Westbrook hates Kevin Durant, the OKC Thunder have a chance.

But despite all the entertainment value, and other teams improving because of what the Warriors done, the league has a massive problem. Players and referees can’t seem to get along, and there are times when it becomes infuriating to watch. So let’s talk about it, and let’s do it honestly.

I’d say that over 98% of the time and NBA ref blows their whistle, they make the correct call (block/charge calls are a crapshoot, and refs are just gonna miss a few.) It’s unbelievable how accurate they are, especially in this day in age with how athletic the players are. If you’ve ever watched an NBA game and thought you could do a better job than a ref, stop lying to yourself. You’re on the couch watching for a reason.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s dive into the 4 major reasons for the player/ref tension (I couldn’t think of a 5th):

Preferential Treatment: There’s no denying that “star calls” exist in the NBA, and that’s just wrong. I guess it’s so engrained in the NBA culture now that players just kind of accept it. Tune into any game on NBA League Pass, and you’ll hear one team broadcaster saying “THAT’S A FOUL”, but it you switch feeds, the other team broadcaster will be saying “You ain’t gonna get that call, rook”. Look, it’s wrong, everyone knows that. This seems pretty cut and dry, but if Jayson Tatum gets fouled, that impacts the game just as much as if Kyrie Irving gets fouled. Call if the same for both players. And call it the same for all players on the defensive end. When the Celtics and Warriors played Saturday night, Kevin Durant picked up two quick fouls, then committed and obvious third foul that went uncalled because the refs have a fear of removing KD from a primetime game for too long. We can’t let the Celtics walk into Oracle and have a big lead, can we? That’s not good for the brand.

(Kinda looks like a travel to me too)

Infuriating Inconsistency: The tension between players and refs is never going away unless the refs can become more consistent. I don’t know how referees and the NBA expect players to react when they get a call in the first quarter, but don’t get it in the fourth when the game is on the line. A foul is a foul, and the referees need to do a better job of establishing what impermissible contact is. Time and score should not dictate whether a referee blows the whistle. The action of the players should dictate that. This inconsistency also opens the doors for late game techs, which can change a game. No one wants that.

shaun livingston

Player Complaints: I get the other side of this too. It must be so frustrating for a referee to make the correct call, and have a player immediately in their ear complaining. I’m personally a big fan of the players who commit blatant fouls, and act like the ref missed the call. Those are my favorite. Little newsflash to NBA players: you’re playing a sport against the best athletes in the world, you’re gonna commit a foul every once in a while. So acknowledge it, put your big boy pants on, and shut up.

Referee Attitudes: Kids these days, am I right? The NBA has a younger generation of referees, that has decided they’re on a mission to prove they’ve never gotten a call wrong. Argue for more than 5 seconds? That’s a tech. Give a little stinkeye? You’re gettin T’d up. Refs are human too, and they need to admit that they can miss a call. Or they at least need to explain why the call was made. But as we decided earlier, refs don’t like to establish what a foul is. I don’t like to single out refs (mainly because I don’t like to admit that I know their names), but young refs will follow the established refs, and the most established ref is Scott Foster. Foster was well linked to Tim Donaghy, and once proven not guilty, he formed a personal vendetta against the players who had doubted his integrity. Message to potential future refs out there: don’t be a Scott Foster.

It seems pretty obvious what happened, doesn’t it? The referees of days past created a culture of favoring stars. Now there are younger refs in the league, and to their credit, they’ve done a better job of not giving stars all of the calls. That leads to the inconsistency, because the older refs will still give star calls. In turn this leads to player complaints, because if you’re a star (20+ ppg), you’re used to getting certain calls, and it’s frustrating when you don’t.

Players need to do a better job of understanding that the culture in the NBA is changing, and the refs need to do a better job of dropping the damn attitude. Furthermore, the NBA as a whole needs to drop the pettiness that permeates the league. Sure it makes for some fun stories (lookin at you CP3). But let me just remind everyone that these are grown ass men acting like children (except Isaiah Thomas who’s a grown ass child trying to act like a man).

Side note: get rid of the last two minute report. It’s useless.

Written by: Brian Borders (@bborders12)

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