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Sorry conspiracy theorists, one former NBA referee says stars don't get enough calls

Aug 11, 2010, 11:07 AM EDT

reThumbnail image for Barnes_ref.jpgNBA referee conspiracy theories rank right up there with JFK, Area 51 and Tupac is alive in American mythology.

It’s an almost unquestioned belief that NBA superstars get the calls. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James get calls when they drive that Caron Butler or Jonny Flynn would not. Particularly late in games or during the playoffs. It’s probably why the Lakers won the last two titles, right?

Not even close, said former NBA official Ronnie Nunn, as told to the Toronto Star.

“The reverse is true, and that’s something the fans don’t know. To be perfectly honest, star players get fewer calls than they deserve. They probably deserve more calls,” said Ronnie Nunn, a retired NBA ref who now works as the director of development of NBA officials. “(Star players) play through contact that would make one believe the contact wasn’t significant enough for a foul. And then you look at it on tape and you see, ‘Wow, he really got bumped on that play, but he swirled around it and he made it look easy.’ And so, the no-call was incorrect.”

You know who gets the calls in the NBA? The aggressor. Almost every time. If you see a free throw disparity in a game, it’s not because a referee favored Miami over Atlanta, it’s because the Heat got the ball inside, because their players attacked the rim while the Hawks settled for jumpers.

But that’s not as much fun as saying the refs were trying to decided the game. And that Tupac was there, too, in section 114. I swear.

  1. fjtardy - Aug 11, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    As a Laker fan, I used to cringe at the touch foul calls that Magic used to get…almost embarrassing…(don’t get me started on Jordan and his free passes to the line.) Since 2000, I’ve seen Shaq and Kobe fouled all the time with no calls.

  2. Dball - Aug 11, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    Kareem used to get fouled on nearly every play. I totally agree with Ronnie Nunn.

  3. bleedgreenfan - Aug 11, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    What kind of BS is this? EVERYONE KNOWS that the marque players get away with crap that no one else in the league does. Lebron, Kobe, Dwayne and a host of others travel and push off on better than 50% of their drives to the hoop but never get called. You have big men like Gasol and side show Bob on the Cavs that shove and push people all the time but never get called and don’t get me started on the camping out they do in the paint….
    No, only those who drink the REALLY GOOD Kool-Aid would agree with this clown.
    Stern needs to step down and the ENTIRE officiating crew needs to be replaced with those who know how to do the job.

  4. Jared - Aug 11, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    I’m not sure what side of the fence i fall on when it comes to whether or not the refs are fixing games, or blatantly missing calls, ect… But one aspect that i think we can all agree with is that the refs in basketball have too much to do with the outcome of a game. I don’t have a clue how to change that or what can be done to prevent that, but it’s tough to watch your team for over 2 hours hustle and grind the entire game only to have them lose because of a phantom call, or (my favorite) “just letting them play” and not making calls because it’s the end of the game. As if the calls at the beginning of the game can’t give you two points like the end of the game can. I’m not sure how often new refs get hired, but when i see refs like Dick Bevetta who are as old as he is (bless his heart), it makes you wonder if he can really make legitimate calls with the speed of the game.

  5. yeah OKAY - Aug 11, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    Sell that BS somewhere else. I’m not buying.

  6. Sguy2130 - Aug 11, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    This is 100% credible from the completely unbiased objective 3rd party it’s coming from….while we are at it, why don’t we ask Tony Heyward how well the gulf oil spill was handled by BP?

  7. Zachariah Blott - Aug 11, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    If I didn’t have eyes, I’d maybe believe him. Then again, Tim Donaghy says his piece and the league decides it’s best to not formally challenge or sue him. And it’s not foul discrepancies that are so suspicious, it’s foul discrepancies at specific times that turn things around for the team that makes a better story line for the NBA. Like fourth quarter of Game Seven a few months ago, when a 21-6 free throw disparity in no way fit the rest of the series, but boy do we like our Kobe-closing-in-on-MJ story line.

  8. Colin Zvosec - Aug 11, 2010 at 8:15 PM

    As someone who’s reffed before, obviously not in the NBA but still, I agree with Nunn. Its human nature to give fewer calls to the better players because they can handle more punishment. People that think there is some sort of ref conspiracy have never reffed the game.

  9. Jacob - Aug 11, 2010 at 10:16 PM

    Hey Colin Zvosec, nothing like sucking up to try and move up the ladder. I have reffed many college games and see that the NBA treats the stars different from the other players…..stick to you high school schedule….

  10. Colin Zvosec - Aug 12, 2010 at 1:08 AM

    I have no interest in “moving up the ladder” when it comes to reffing. I don’t like it, and I only do it to make some extra cash. And, even if I were to “suck up,” the last place I would do it is some random internet message board. That makes no sense.
    Since you ref college games, then you should understand exactly what he’s talking about. Your statement only proves his point.

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