“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
Atlanta Hawks wingman Thabo Sefolosha made news on April 18 when he was arrested along with his teammate Pero Antic at 1 Oak, a nightclub in New York, and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of governmental administration.
From afar, it’s a wild story: Milwaukee Bucks forward Chris Copeland was there separately that night, and got stabbed shortly as the club let out around 4:00 a.m. It sparked a series events that ended with Sefolosha getting arrested, breaking his leg, and missing the playoffs altogether. The first-seed Atlanta Hawks, without Sefolosha, went on to get swept in the Eastern Conference finals by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Oct. 9, Sefolosha was exonerated of all three charges by a jury in New York. A week ago, he sued the NYPD for $50 million. We didn’t know a whole lot else about the incident until today, when our friends over at GQ dropped a piece in which Sefolosha explains in his own words what transpired over the last six months.
Disgraced referee Tim Donaghy sees a different game from the rest of us. Which is why, out of prison, he’s now sports gambling’s golden boy.
Photographs by Simone Lueck
On Easter Sunday, Timothy Francis Donaghy, a self-described “good Irish Catholic boy from Philly,” attended the 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Martha’s church in Sarasota, Florida, receiving Communion to cleanse his soul. “My mother calls every weekend to make sure I go,” he says, then adds, “I lived with my parents until I was 27.”
On this Easter, Donaghy attended Mass with his daughter, Molly, 13, and his girlfriend of six years, Carolyn Thomas, a blonde hairdresser. But some Sundays Donaghy goes to Mass alone. “I’m Catholic, I’m conditioned to confess,” he says. But “it’s been hard to forgive myself. My sins changed the lives of my four daughters. My wife divorced me. God had given me everything. A great job, money, a wonderful family. I knew it was wrong, but I thought gambling was a venial sin. That’s why I didn’t confess it to a priest until after I was caught.”
Donaghy had been an NBA referee for nine years when, in 2003, he began to place bets on NBA games — though he swore in an FBI lie-detector test, which he passed, that he never “fixed” a game with dubious calls. “I didn’t have to,” he says. “It was too easy using my insider’s knowledge.” After he resigned from the NBA and pleaded guilty in 2007, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison, lost what he describes as his $300,000 annual salary and his six-figure pension, and was ordered to pay $195,000 in restitution. His gambling exploits netted him only $100,000 in winning bets, he swears. “But I didn’t really do it for the money.”
A few days before Easter, at 8:30 a.m., Donaghy and I are sitting at the kitchen counter of his modest townhouse in Sarasota, studying his website, Refpicks. It’s a handicapping service for sports gamblers that employs a dozen other handicappers around the country who specialize in sports other than basketball. Donaghy himself only makes picks for the NBA, using his knowledge of the officials for each game. “I’m the only handicapper in the country who bases his picks on the refs,” he says. He’s successful roughly 60 percent of the time — that’s about five points higher than most professional gamblers, which means that in the world of sports gambling, the name Tim Donaghy is gold. In the real world, that name is mud. Donaghy is usually referred to in the media with a prefix, like a tail pinned to a donkey: “disgraced referee” Tim Donaghy.
The grades are in, and the NBA admits that the referees didn’t get it right on a few key plays at the end of Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
According to the NBA, referees Zach Zarba, Scott Foster and Tony Brothers missed some calls during the last two minutes of the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 95-93 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. The best-of-seven series is tied at a game apiece.
“I saw it. I’m not going to talk about that, obviously,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said Tuesday. “The NBA is doing their work and their homework, and very qualified people are in charge of handling those issues. I’m going to let them handle it.”
With 1:37 remaining in overtime, the NBA said the Warriors’ Andre Iguodalawasn’t called for making contact with LeBron James‘ arm on a shot attempt as the 24-second shot clock expired. However, the league also admitted Monday that James had moved his pivot foot before the shot attempt and should have been called for traveling before the contact was made.
Another missed call came with 45 seconds remaining in the game, as the NBA said that the Warriors’ Draymond Green should have been called for grabbing James’ shoulder and impeding James’ ability to jump during the jump ball situation.
“I know what happened throughout the course of the game, so nothing really goes through my mind [when hearing about the review],” James said Tuesday. “There’s nothing they can do about it at that point. It is what it is, and you just move on from it.
“I’m happy that we was able to come through with the win. That’s the only thing that matters.”
That wasn’t the only instance of the referees missing Green doing that, either. The NBA admitted Green also should have been called for making contact with Tristan Thompson‘s arm, thus affecting Thompson’s ability to control the ball, during the opening tip of overtime.
Blatt also was unhappy with the Warriors’ tactic of fouling Thompson at the end of Game 2.
“That’s a tactic that’s been used and is becoming more and more prevalent in the game. And hopefully this summer the whole idea will be readdressed and reconsidered,” Blatt said. “But for now, the rules are as they are, and that’s a tactic.
“We are always thinking of what’s our best lineup on the court at any given time and considering the possibilities of what tactic can be employed. We’ll deal with it as it comes.”
Danny Crawford, Marc Davis and Derrick Stafford will be the referees for Game 3 on Tuesday night (ABC, 9 p.m. ET) as the series shifts to Cleveland.