NBA referees, perhaps more than any other officials, get a bad rap. And for that, we are sorry.
But if they really want to make things better, might we suggest not airing grievances on Twitter.
You see, NBA refs actually have an official Twitter account, which they (or their social media liaison) primarily use to promote individual refs, highlight charitable endeavors and, occasionally, offer rules lessons. On the whole, it’s a surprisingly useful resource for basketball fans.
But every once in a while, the refs react to criticism by lashing out and/or offering underwhelming explanations.
Take a look at these tweets pertaining to TNT’s broadcast of Thursday night’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets:
First of all, the refs were right in the second clip. That was a foul by Lonzo Ball, and Chris Webber was wrong.
That first tweet, however, never should’ve made it past the draft stage.
The play involving James Harden and Kyle Kuzma is a prime example of why fans get so frustrated with referees. Yes, Kuzma’s knee touches Harden’s thigh, but the refs carefully omitted the fact they clearly were duped by Harden, one of the NBA’s most notorious floppers. There’s no way the officials, upon further review of the play, can believe Kuzma’s knee “caused Harden to fall to the floor.”
It’s a minor play, to be sure, but also one that embodies the two biggest gripes fans have with referees: rushing to call ticky-tack fouls and easily persuaded by theatrics of star players. Moreover, these tweets just make the refs look like they have a major persecution complex.
Take a look at their reply to NBA on ESPN’s Twitter, which highlighted an indefensible technical foul called during Wednesday night’s Atlanta Hawks-Dallas Mavericks game:
OK, there are a few problems here.
1. Saying you weren’t “in on the joke” isn’t an excuse for lacking situational awareness and making a bogus call in a professional basketball game. You were three feet away from the play.
2. Was this tweet really necessary? It just makes a group that many believe already is too persuadable look even more easily triggered.
3. There’s some hypocrisy going on.
Check out this explanation for why LeBron James wasn’t called for a tech back in November:
Alright, so James wasn’t called for a technical partly because there was a timeout and the play was whistled dead? Why, then, were DeAndre Jordan and Trae Young called for technicals after a timeout was called and the play was dead? Why is anyone called for technicals after a timeout is called?
Hell, by this logic, then Ron Artest (or Meta World Peace, or whatever) should’ve been allowed to continue playing after the Brawl at Auburn Hills.
(We know we’re exaggerating here, but that’s the point: The refs open the door to this type of criticism when they 1.) tweet nonsense and 2.) undermine their own aspired credibility by leaving everyone clueless as to what constitutes a foul, a technical foul and whether star players get preferential treatment.)
We understand that NBA refs feel the need to stand up for themselves. Again, they get railed on more than any other officials, with foreign soccer refs perhaps being the only exception. Furthermore, criticism of NBA refs often is unwarranted and, lest we forget, they are just humans, after all.
But the fact that LeBron James has fouled out only eight times in 16 years means the refs have lost the benefit of the doubt. Same goes for refs of decades past, who only fouled out Michael Jordan 10 times.
Oh, and don’t get us started on Tim Donaghy.
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Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images