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Elephant Sport’s NBA Quarterly Report – Pt. 2

January 12, 2017 in Features, Opinion

A thrilling 2016-17 NBA season has thus far delivered entertainment, elite individual performances and plenty controversy.

But, best of all, we have only just reached the halfway mark. Allow Elephant Sport to run through some of the most exciting categories since our first instalment.

Best Team: Houston Rockets

Before even diving into the excellence of Mike D’Antoni’s team, we need look no further than the Rockets’ record during this half. Led by James Harden, they are sitting comfortably in 3rd seed with a 30-10 record. Add to this only two losses in 19 games.

If the Rockets were the most improved team in the first quarter, they are undoubtedly the best one in the league right now. This has been aided by the return of potential defensive all-star, Patrick Beverley.

A lot has been said about Houston’s lack of defensive prowess but, with the aforementioned point-guard back, many of the criticisms have been erased. Beverley is averaging more rebounds than any other player in the team. Meanwhile, the Rockets have climbed into the top 15 defensive sides in the league.

But beyond number-crunching, this is a team rich in chemistry and unity. In a recent match against the Dallas Mavericks, small-forward Trever Ariza got into a verbal altercation with Salah Mejri. At the end of the game, the entire Rockets squad waited for the Mavs’ centre in an attempt to confront him.

While violence is not to be condoned, especially in a professional environment, it’s refreshing to see the Rockets team stick up for one another when, just a few months ago, they had a lot of internal disagreements and issues.

The Rockets are flawed – they certainly struggle to close out games and protect the rim when Clint Capela is missing – but they are living and prospering by the 3-ball. It could very well see them usurp many teams in the play-offs come season end. 

Worst Team: Brooklyn Nets

Neither Jeremy Lin nor Brook Lopez can lift the Nets out of their current rut. Which is ironic, since an arrangement of both their names phonetically adds up to Brooklyn.

This pun is atrocious – much like the Nets have been this season. They are currently bottom of the Eastern Conference and, in 41 games, have yet to reach double digits in wins.

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Brook Lopez warming up

Where the Nets have struggled most is in the creative department. Lin has been underwhelming and inefficient when running the point. Even when he has been at his very best, he has a lack of sharpshooters to lay the ball off to.

On the other hand, Lopez has tried his hardest to deliver wins. But in the game where he dropped a mammoth 38 points – all from inside the post – his team still lost by a comfortable margin.

Perhaps the over-reliance on these two stars has created a pressure hard to overcome for the Nets. But what is certain is this: they have an inefficient bench unit and a non-existent supporting cast.

Sadly, they look to be tanking for the remainder of the season – a testament to how insurmountable they view a comeback or, at the very least, improvement. 

Most Improved: Utah Jazz

 The Utah Jazz were almost unanimously everyone’s sleeper tip going into the new season. Many suspected they would finish in the top four in the West and, while they are currently sitting in 5th, just imagining that would have been far-fetched 20 games ago.

After the first quarter, Utah looked devoid of confidence and quality. Despite the dominant play of Gordon Hayward and the robustness of Rudy Gobert, the Jazz were struggling to string offensive plays together.

Fast-forward to January and they are now one of the league’s in-form teams. While the aforementioned players have turned in titanic performances, it is in the coaching that the Jazz have seen the biggest improvements.

Quin Snyder has drawn up a variety of plays revolving around a combination of point-guard George Hill and Hayward that has led to some excellent ball circulation in recent weeks.

Whether it is the long-range alley-oop, or the bounce pass-to-scorer, the two have struck up a chemistry unlike anything Vivint Arena has seen this term.

Add to that Rudy Gobert averaging one rebound short of the number one spot and the Jazz finally look like that team everyone had expected them to be. 

Who Needs to Trade Immediately: Toronto Raptors

 The Raptors may be one of the finer teams in the league; in their conference, they are second to only the Cleveland Cavaliers. While there is no shame in being second to the reigning champions and LeBron James, there is shame in being miles behind them.

In the three times the teams have met up this season, the Raptors have been torn apart. Two of these games were in this highlighted half.

What the Raptors missed most was a dominant centre – somebody who could prevent Kyrie Irving from entering the pick ‘n’ roll with Tristan Thompson. Furthermore, they lacked a real presence on offence inside the paint. This isn’t a team that shoots outside the perimeter often, so their reliance on inside scoring requires a centre who can do it on both ends.

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The fans at Air Canada could do with seeing a dominant centre every other night

Unfortunately, there are very few centres that can dominate on both ends that are available. Certainly DeMarcus Cousins seems attainable but, since he seems closer to the Boston Celtics, it makes little sense to include him here.

There is, though, one centre who is most definitely attainable. While he may still be young, the potential is there to become one of the finest at the five spot. That player is the Philadelphia 76’ers Nerlens Noel.

The 22-year-old is up for trade now that the 76’ers are shopping for a point-guard. He is the unfortunate collateral damage of this search, since the franchise deems Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor to be more valuable assets.

But when Noel plays, he dominates on both ends. And he is a former Round 1 pick in the draft (2014).

Under the wing of the Raptors – an inside scoring and rim protecting team – he could come into his own.

This is a risk worth taking because it benefits the Raptors in the years to come. They may not be able to challenge the Cavs just yet but, if they can unite the right pieces, that could change in coming seasons.

Surprise Package: Memphis Grizzlies 

The Memphis Grizzlies were predicted to scrape the play-offs; a true bottom-of-the-barrel team. To say they have exceeded expectations is an understatement.

In just the last 20 games, Memphis have defeated the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Oh, and the former they crushed twice.

Mike Conley, a point-guard of immense quality, has been in and out of the team with injury. In his absence, they were unbeaten. Upon his return, they continued to win games.

In veteran centre Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have found a sharpshooting rim-protector. While that may sound like a preposterous hybrid, it is exactly what the Spaniard has become. He has hit game-winning 3-pointers and combined that with blocks and defensive plays aplenty.

As the focal point of their play, Gasol has carried Memphis to 6th in the West within a couple of games off 4th.

MVP at the Half: James Harden

Only one man seems worthy of the award as of this halfway mark. James Harden has dominated the NBA in recent months, breaking records and personal bests alike.

He carved out his highest points (51), assists (17) and rebounds (18) in a historic night against the New York Knicks on New Year’s Eve. He is the first player in NBA history to amass a triple-double of 15-15-15 or higher; he also leads the league in assists by a country mile.

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Harden playing some defence for Team USA

Why Harden instead of Russell Westbrook, some may ask? It’s simple. Westbrook is registering crazy numbers, too. But his team isn’t winning as often, or emphatically, as the Houston Rockets.

That plays a part in contention for the MVP award, particularly when The Beard’s team were ruled out of play-off contention by many punters.

Coach D’Antoni has placed immense belief and confidence in Harden – asking him to command the ball with more regularity and lead the team. This was something Harden had been criticised for in the past: leadership.

That, and defence. It would be an understatement to say he has quashed those criticisms this season.

Houston are winning and Harden is playing his heart out. If voting were to end today, the MVP of the 2016-17 season would be as clear as day.

Rookie of the Year at the Half: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid is the first, and only, repeat appearance of this series. Yet that’s more of a mixed bag than a clear indication of Embiid’s annihilation of the award.

While the Cameroonian centre has undeniably been the best rookie so far, there is an argument to be made that nobody is actually challenging him.

Buddy Hield, for all his enthusiasm, has struggled to find consistency in New Orleans. Meanwhile Brandon Ingram looks far too meek for the NBA as of right now.

Perhaps Embiid’s dominance is, too, down to the fact that he is one of the oldest rookies in contention for the award. This, of course, is owed to his 26 month injury. But, on the flipside, for him to be playing at the level he is considering said injury is mind blowing.

He could genuinely get into the all-star team come February – he’s currently fifth in the West’s frontcourt voting (top 10 take part in the all-star game). The last rookie to achieve such a feat was Blake Griffin in 2011.

He’s also averaging 19 points and seven rebounds a night, despite a minutes restriction to prevent injury. 

Offensive Play of the Half: Larry Nance Jr. Dunk

This was the best dunk of 2016 – and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if it remained better than anything conjured up in 2017.

Larry Nance Jr. channelled his inner-Michael Jordon to throw it down on one of the better rim protectors in the league: Brook Lopez. A man four inches taller than the Lakers’ power-forward. 

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Defensive Play of the Half: Durant block to Curry 3

The best defensive plays either win you games or flip opposition possession into your own points.

Kevin Durant’s emphatic chasedown block, collected by Stephen Curry and dispatched for three, falls into the latter. And it’s a thing beauty.

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Elephant Sport’s NBA Quarterly Report – Pt 1

December 6, 2016 in Opinion

With every team in the NBA having reached a minimum 20 games, we have arrived at the second quarter of the regular season.

The first was enthralling, unpredictable and offered up many exciting moments. Elephant Sport breaks it down into some fun categories.

Best Team: Golden State Warriors

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Curry lets fly from three-point range

It’s hard to look past the Golden State Warriors for this one. Despite losing their opening game to the San Antonio Spurs, and then suffering defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers a few days later, many were quick to attribute issues of chemistry to this Warriors side.

After all, this was the team to beat prior to the season. But how do elite teams bounce back? By winning. Golden State went one step further, though.

They swatted each and every single opponent out of their sight, notching a streak of 12 wins before falling to the Houston Rockets on their 20th match. They are currently nurturing a 17-3 record.

Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, contrary to popular belief prior to the season, have grown a strong on-court bond together.

The former is posting up career-highs in every single department – not least of which, points. Meanwhile Curry has embodied the role of facilitator, aptly putting his ego to the side.

Worst Team: Dallas Mavericks

It’s tough to argue against a side who has only won four of their 21 encounters this season. Unfortunately, there have been two teams that have recorded an identical record.

The difference between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Mavericks? The former have at least looked entertaining and have some young stars that are lighting up the league, eg, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor.

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Dirk’s injury has crippled Dallas

The 76ers have also taken the biggest of teams to overtime and tend to lose by small margins. The Mavs, on the other hand, are completely devoid of any quality.

Dirk Nowitzki – their only star – has been injured for the majority of the season, which has exposed how frail and disappointing the Dallas side is without the 38-year-old.

The most disappointing thing about the Mavericks is that players like Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut – two former NBA champions – have turned in good performances sporadically at best.

Bogut has been inconsistent when protecting the rim and has fouled out twice already this season. Whereas Barnes is failing to dish out assists, averaging only one per game. By having the highest ball-usage on the team, he should be producing more often.

Most Improved Team: Houston Rockets

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Harden is producing his best numbers to date

The Rockets were lambasted in the off-season when they appointed Mike D’Antoni as head coach. This was seen as a signing that would continue to allow the Rockets to play shoddy defence.

But what most seemed to forget was that defence matters very little in the regular season, especially if you can create All-Star numbers on the other end of the court.

But, even then, many punters had the Rockets failing to reach the play-offs once the season ends. As of right now, the Rockets are sitting in fourth place behind only the Spurs, Warriors and Clippers – inarguably the three best teams in the Western Conference.

D’Antoni has assembled a team of cut-throat three-point shooters, including new boys Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon.

With this maximised potential on offence, the Rockets have broken two records already this season: most three-point shots attempted in NBA history (51) and longest streak of three-points made in NBA history (17).

James Harden is posting MVP numbers and very close to averaging a triple-double for the season. D’Antoni’s influence has allowed ‘The Beard’ to both orchestrate play and run it too.

The Rockets are currently 13-7 and are the only side in the league to have beaten both the Spurs and Warriors already; both on the road.

Who Needs to Trade Immediately: Boston Celtics

The Celtics are struggling more than most expected. Despite being third in their conference, a 12-8 record has been seen as a disappointment from inside the franchise.

Boston are in dire need of a strong rebounder – something they thought Al Horford could be. While Horford has been fairly good this season, his role seems to be more focused on getting points in the paint rather than winning possession off the board.

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The Celtics could prosper from a move for Cousins

With a consistent rebounder, the Celtics would lose a lot less. In fact, they currently lead the NBA in most second chance points conceded. This is, without a doubt, due to their lack of proficiency in the air when leaping for a rebound.

Who could they trade for? The Celtics aren’t devoid of pieces that they could put up. And they are also not a franchise unrecognisable to most.

With superstar Isaiah Thomas leading the floor, and a consistent army of good players surrounding him, now is the chance to join up with the Celtics.

In an ideal world, the Celtics move for Sacramento’s Demarcus Cousins. The often-aggressive centre is becoming disillusioned with what is shaping up to be another season of disappointment for his team.

He’s averaging over 10 rebounds per game, which should ring shouts of excitement in the ears of Boston. After all, how hard could it be to tempt a disillusioned player away from his suffering franchise while he’s in his peak years?

Sacramento needs picks in the draft to start building for the future. Boston could offer a pick or two, along with outcasts such as Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk. It makes sense.

Surprise Package: Los Angeles Lakers

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Julius Randle, at just 22, is having a fine season

The Lakers post-Kobe Bryant were supposed to be an incoherent mess on the court. Plays on offence were going to diminish, meanwhile defensive presence was to continue being non-existent at best.

Having finished bottom of the West in the previous season with Kobe, one would be forgiven for thinking this season would be worse. Except they are already seven wins away from bettering last season’s measly 17 victories.

They are also one win away from a play-off spot already.

This is the first quarter they have had to play without Kobe’s influence in over 20 years. And they couldn’t look freer from his shackles.

Offensive play has been smooth, with sophomore D’Angelo Russell facilitating play from the point-guard position. His rotation partner, Jordan Clarkson, has also been posting up monster numbers from the bench.

Nick Young, often ridiculed for being a veteran with a kid’s mentality, has won two games for the Lakers with buzzer-beater shots and is leading the team effortlessly.

And then you have Julius Randle – by far the Lakers’ finest player this quarter. The 22-year-old has already registered a triple-double this season and is averaging 13 points and nine rebounds per game.

A supporting cast of Lou Williams and Timofey Mozgov has enabled the Lakers to flourish and, with a 10-12 record, they look like a dark horse for a play-off spot in a season where everyone expected the franchise to hit rock bottom.

MVP at the Quarter: Russell Westbrook

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Russ is clinching historic numbers

Many predicted this, but nobody quite predicted the enormity of Russell Westbrook’s play.

Following the departure of Oklahoma team-mate and long-term friend Kevin Durant, it was expected that Westbrook would play out of his skin in every game to compensate for the fact that he is the only remaining superstar on the Thunder.

Fast-forward 20 games and the point-guard is averaging a triple-double per game, including six in a row, which has equalled and bettered greats such as Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.

With his outstanding play, Westbrook is now averaging a monster 31 points per game, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He has single-handedly dragged a quality-depleted Thunder side to fifth in the conference with an admirable 13-8 record.

James Harden seems like the closest contender but, if Westbrook does not slow down, elite names such as LeBron James, Curry, Durant and Chris Paul won’t even stand a chance next to the 28-year-old.

Rookie of the Year at the Quarter: Joel Embiid

Can anyone genuinely look past the eccentric 7’0″ Cameroonian centre?

After two long years of injury, nobody expected Embiid’s first NBA season to be one of such pure dominance on both ends.

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Joel Embiid warms up with a dunk

Despite being restricted to just 23 minutes per game, Embiid is averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

Consider the fact that he is only appearing in half of every match, this is a fascinating return for the 22-year-old.

While honourable mentions such as Pascal Siakam and Jaylen Brown look impressive, they are nothing in comparison to the 76ers behemoth.

He moves as though he is several inches shorter on offence, and operates as a man possessed when protecting the rim on the other end. His entertainment factor is sky-high, often lighting up what is a very poor Philly side.

He already looks like an All-Star in the making.

Offensive Play of the Quarter:

A game-winner? Some fancy handles? A three-point shot?

How about all three combined into one smooth play by the Rockets’ James Harden against the Utah Jazz:

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Defensive Play of the Quarter:

Two plays rolled into one, watch as Kristaps Porzingis cements two monster blocks deep in the fourth quarter and OT to deliver the New York Knicks a victory against the Charlotte Hornets:

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Elephant Sport will be continuing this four-part series throughout the NBA season at every quarter. 

Amaechi’s alternative route after NBA retirement

December 6, 2016 in Interviews

“I have no interest in actually teaching kids how to put a ball in a hole, I’m interested in what we can do with and through sport”

Former NBA star John Amaechi, has taken an alternative route since retiring from basketball in 2003.

Even while playing college hoops at Penn State, the Briton became a motivational speaker, aiming to inspire young people from tough backgrounds to achieve their potential.

It set him on the path he was to follow after a career which included stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz, as well as leading clubs in France, Greece and Italy.

Amaechi told me: “It was always the plan, I never intended to play basketball forever. I’d always intended to be a psychologist since the age of about nine.

“I have no interest in basketball or sport at all, I’m interested in what we can do for society but that’s still sociology and the psychology around sport.”

Performance

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Amaechi in action for the Orlando Magic

Amaechi, who was born in Boston but grew up in Stockport until the age of 17, could have taken the more tried-and-tested route into coaching, punditry or maybe a managerial or executive role in basketball.

“I’m more interested in what we can do in terms of developing community and teaching lessons through sport,” said the 46-year-old who was received an OBE in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, for services to sport and the voluntary sector.

“I have no interest in actually teaching kids how to put a ball in a hole, I’m interested in what we can do with and through sport.”

To that end, he set up Amaechi Performance Systems (APS) in 2008 and now leads a team that combines psychological, corporate and educational training for businesses, education and sports professionals, teams and individuals.

‘The job I love’

Amaechi, who entered the NBA’s Hall of Fame after scoring the first points of the new millennium, said: “I’m working with varied organisations such as schools all the way through to big corporates and the intelligent services.

“My work as a psychologist is now organisational, coaching individuals, small groups, organisations to help them deal with transformation, change, retention, recruitment, engagement, motivation you name it.

“I don’t think I could have imagined the job as it stands now, but it’s certainly the job I love; I’ve never loved anything more than this.”

The 6ft 10in former power forward/centre says he first realised the power that sport has to influence people and change their lives during his NBA days.

Improve

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Amaechi was honoured by the Prince of Wales in 2011

He recalled: “I was playing for Cleveland in my first year in the NBA, I wasn’t great as a player, and my team was not great. The city was very under-enthused about basketball.

“I met a mother who wanted me to sign an autograph for her child, of course I did and then I shook his hand, as I walked away, I saw the way he looked at his hand, he was frozen, staring at the hand I just shook.

“I realised then the power that even a terrible basketball player, from a terrible basketball team could have.

“It was very informative for the way I would conduct myself from then on, realising I was not just literally but metaphorically a giant and in my society I could improve things and change things.”

Donation

Part of his mission to ‘improve and change things’ happened on a personal level when, in February 2007, he became the first former NBA player to come out publicly as gay.

He recently appeared before the Commons Culture, Media And Sport Committee to urge that more progress be made in tackling homophobia in sport and society in general.

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The Amaechi Basketball Centre

In truth, however, his interests and concerns are far wider than campaigning on a single issue, and he continues to use his influence to make a difference to people’s lives in all sorts of ways.

A perfect example of this is another of Amaechi’s successful projects – the Amaechi Basketball Centre which opened in July 2002.

Helped by a £250,000 donation from Amaechi, Greater Manchester Community Basketball was able to move to a £2.1m purpose-built centre.

It features three basketball courts, 10 outdoor five-aside football pitches, a health and fitness suite, dance studio, conference room, café-bar area and appropriate changing facilities.

A not-for-profit organisation with charitable status, it is “dedicated to providing basketball opportunities for all sections of the community, to achieve their own potential, regardless of ability, ethnic background, socio-economic background, gender or age”.

Participation

The centre perfectly aligns with Amaechi’s goals and his mission to explore the potential in people that can be unlocked through sport.

It has certainly fulfilled his aim of  ‘improve and change things’ in the community where he grew up.

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Amaechi speaks to pupils at Stockport Grammar School

Greater Manchester Community Basketball now has the highest number of participants involved in programmes nationally, and also achieved the Five-Star Standard Award from England Basketball.

Not only does the club have a successful men’s team in Manchester Magic, who compete in the UK’s National Basketball League (not the British Basketball League) they also have a variety of youth teams and a women’s club, Manchester Mystics.

Amaechi says he is “interested in what sport can do in terms of developing community,” and the Amaechi Basketball Centre does exactly that.

It’s refreshing to see what high-profile athletes can do with the power and influence they have, especially when retirement presents them with fresh challenges and opportunities.

You can find out more about Amaechi Performance Systems here.

Top five worst officiating decisions in NBA history

November 28, 2016 in Opinion

In light of the recent drama between the Toronto Raptors and the Sacramento Kings, Elephant Sport decided to take a look at some of the worst decisions of all time in the NBA.

5) Raptors’ Ross Robbed

On November 21 2016, Terrence Ross silenced the Sacramento crowd with a clutch three-pointer on the buzzer to take the game to overtime. Or so he thought.

Amidst ruckus and exuberant celebrations, the home sector started to cheer. The referee had spotted a tip from Demarcus Cousins in real time.

The officials proceeded to confer in the replay centre and, in the end, decided that Cousins had tipped the ball. This, effectively, meant that the clock should have started when Sacramento’s centre touched the ball, not when Ross collected it. In essence, the buzzer should have sounded before Ross shot.

But a recent Twitter investigation saw a user splice the clock when Cousins touched the ball, which dramatically revealed that Ross had released the ball before the buzzer even with Cousins’ interference added to the timer.

This controversy has led to the Raptors making a formal complaint, hoping that overtime will be replayed in a one-off encounter vs the Kings at a later point this season to decide a victor.

But there have been worse decisions in the NBA, surprisingly (or unsurprisingly for the unabashedly critical fans of the sport…)

4) Joey Crawford Calls ‘The Worst Foul Ever’

Perhaps the most comical and least serious of all the other moments on this list, Joey Crawford whistling for a foul on Steve Nash is still one of the most ridiculous bits of officiating in sporting history.

Halfway through the third quarter of a play-off game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Phoenix Suns in 2010, Nash releases a pass inside the D and draws a foul… according to Crawford.

In the midst of it all, Marcus Camby was awarded his fourth foul of the game. The issue with this? Camby was nowhere near Nash. If he were to have jumped at Nash, fully outstretched and possessing the superhuman abilities of Mister Fantastic, Camby still would have failed to touch the point guard.

Nash made both of the subsequent free-throws, effectively knocking Portland out of the series in the first-round.

3) The First Phantom Foul

Picture this: there are 27 seconds left on the clock, the Detroit Pistons lead by one point against the Los Angeles Lakers. The latter have the final possession of the game and decide to storm into the paint.

This is Detroit’s chance to win their first ever NBA Championship, leading the 1988 series 3-2. In 24 seconds, providing they can defend a Lakers play, the Pistons win the title.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar receives a pass in the post and challenges Pistons centre Bill Laimbeer. The towering giant jumps to contest Jabbar’s post-hook and forces the superstar to miss. At that point, the Pistons were champions.

That is, until, the officials decide to call an illegal foul on Laimbeer for his jump on Jabbar. The replays still to this day show no such illegal play whatsoever.

Jabbar stepped up, knocked down both free-throws and the Lakers went on to tie the series, force a final game and win the championship.

A fight broke out at the end of the game between both teams due to the absurdity of the decision.

2) Hue Hollins Prevents The Bulls From Making History 

The second phantom foul on the list but, undoubtedly, the worst.

This was a Chicago Bulls team without Michael Jordan, who had spent the entire year on a hiatus playing baseball; this was a Bulls team with only Scottie Pippen remaining.

Pippen was the supporting star to Jordan’s excellence. But he became the leader in the 1994 NBA Finals. By the end of it, referee Hue Hollins had reduced Pippen to a loser.

With three seconds left on the buzzer, the Bulls were close to clinching a spot in the NBA Finals. The New York Knicks had to draw up a three-pointer to win the game and force a final match for the series.

Hubert Davis chucked a three from improbable range which Pippen attempted to contest. “Attempt” being the operative word; the small-forward jumped but failed to touch Davis, who ended up missing.

Hollins blew the whistle and awarded Davis three free-throws which, essentially, knocked the Bulls out of a potential historic NBA Championship and prevented ‘Pip’ from becoming a bona fide superstar.

1) The Biggest Fix in NBA History?

In game six of the 2002 NBA finals, Sacramento were one win away from being crowned champions for the first time in their history.

Playing to a level of quality never before seen in the city, the Kings side led by all-star power forward Chris Webber received a level of officiating that, to this day, stands as the biggest travesty ever witnessed in an NBA game.

Playing on the road at the LA Lakers, the Kings had four legitimate blocks called as illegal fouls. From these fouls, the Lakers collected eight points.

Sacramento then suffered three offensive fouls, wrongly called as both were clear blocking interferences from the Lakers (two by Kobe Bryant, one from Shaquille O’Neal). In the following possession of each foul, the Lakers drew up a three-pointer and two mid-range jumpers for a seven-point play.

Perhaps the worst and most frustrating refereeing decision made on the night was when Kobe attempted a mid-range jumper and elbowed Mike Bibby in the face.

Bibby fell to the floor with an assistant referee staring directly at the play. He called for a foul… against Bibby. Bryant knocked down another two points from the subsequent free-throw which wrapped up the game late on for the Lakers.

Ex-referee Tim Donaghy later alleged that Dick Bavetta and Bob Delaney – officials in this particular game – had fixed the outcome of the tie.  Both they and the NBA denied the claims.

An investigation ensued, but no wrongdoing was ever proved, however that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theories abounding even to this day.

The Kings went on to lose 106-102 on the night and in the final game, too.

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