The NBA's seemingly endless nightmare continued Sunday night when disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy sat down with 60 Minutes for his first interview about the gambling scandal that rocked professional basketball.
The death threats, the fact that he threw away his life and career for a mere $100,000 in gambling profits, the knee that he says was damaged by an organized crime operative while in prison and the mob involvement that ultimately got him caught - all will make headlines. So will an assertion by the FBI agent who headed the Donaghy investigation, Philip Scala, who told 60 Minutes that the ref's NBA picks conservatively resulted in "at least a few million dollars" flowing into organized crime coffers.
While Donaghy reiterated that he was successful on between 70 and 80 percent of his picks - a claim that matches the FBI's conclusions, according to the 60 Minutes piece - he continued to maintain that his officiating was honest. But the most significant piece of news that emerged from the interview Sunday night was Donaghy's assertion that he did, in fact, manipulate calls that helped him win a bet on a game between the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz on Jan. 6, 2007. This is the first time that Donaghy has publicly disclosed a particular game that he wagered on and described the actions he took - coincidentally, he claims - to win that bet.
A bombshell - until you watch the game.
The day before the game, Nuggets superstar Allen Iverson was fined $25,000 by the NBA for comments critical of referee Steve Javie, with whom Iverson has long feuded.
In the interview, Donaghy said that he and other referees felt the punishment was too light. Before the Nuggets played the Jazz on Jan. 6, 2007, Donaghy said he and the other two officials assigned to the game -- Bernie Fryer and Gary Zielinski -- agreed that they wouldn't give Iverson a fair whistle that night as a way to "teach him a lesson."
"I knew that the other two referees and I sought out to do a little justice of our own," Donaghy said. "... In the pregame meetings we came to the conclusion that we were not gonna give Allen Iverson any marginal plays for the basket."
Donaghy told 60 Minutes that he bet against Iverson's team that night, but claimed that he manipulated calls only to stick it to Iverson - not to help him win the bet. The Jazz beat the Nuggets 96-84, making Donaghy's pick a winner.
If Donaghy was able to execute his plan, he did a better job concealing it than you could imagine. The Nuggets attempted 31 free throws to Utah's 17, and Iverson went to the free-throw line more than anyone else in the game; he was 11 for 12. But there's more, thanks to Synergy Sports Technology, which logs in-depth statistics, play outcomes and video clips of every NBA game.
In the game in question, Iverson drove to the basket 12 times. I watched every one of those plays. Iverson made two driving layups, missed four, lost the ball once and drew five fouls -- three of which were called by Donaghy himself. He was called for two personal fouls and drew nine in the game.
Iverson was called twice for palming the ball, an infraction known as a discontinued dribble. One call was made by Zielinski and the other by Donaghy, who also whistled Utah's Deron Williams for the same infraction with two minutes left in the game. At the time, cracking down on palming was a point of emphasis for the NBA's officiating department, according to a source.
The Synergy video clips showed one play on which Iverson obviously was fouled and didn't get the call. With 2:28 left in the third quarter, Iverson missed a driving layup in transition. Donaghy, the baseline official on the play, failed to call Mehmet Okur for hitting Iverson with his left arm. Donaghy did, however, call Okur for fouling Reggie Evans, who got the offensive rebound and missed both of his free throws.
Asked about Donaghy's assertions Sunday after his first practice since re-signing with the Philadelphia 76ers, Iverson told CBSSports.com, "I don't have a reaction. I don't want to get into that. I'll let the NBA and the higher beings handle that."
In the interview, Donaghy focused on games involving another superstar, the Lakers' Kobe Bryant. He said he won several bets in a row by putting money on the Lakers because he was able to use the NBA's own internal communication with referees to guess accurately about how those games would be called.
After the Lakers had sent a DVD to the league office complaining about certain calls not going in Bryant's favor - a common practice for all teams - Donaghy saw the league's training videos emphasizing those rules not as a teaching tool, but as a way to win bets. According to a person familiar with the league's methods for training officials and emphasizing certain rules, such videos cover a variety of teams and players and aren't specifically geared toward how one player is being officiated.
What does it all mean? Either Donaghy was highly skilled at concealing his use of the whistle in games he bet on, or he continues to be what the NBA has repeatedly cast him as -- a convicted felon whose statements cannot be trusted. It remains the ultimate case of you make the call.
Donaghy continued to maintain his truthfulness, telling 60 Minutes that he had no choice but to be honest with federal investigators or risk losing his plea agreement. Scala supported that claim, saying that the FBI never found any of his statements to be false. In the interview, Donaghy did not unveil any bombshells about the potential involvement of any other referees in betting or passing information to gamblers.
The NBA declined to make Fryer, Zielinski or any other league official available to CBSSports.com for an interview Sunday because it had yet to see the 60 Minutes interview or Donaghy's book, Personal Foul, which is due out this month with a new publisher after a division of Random House dropped it in October over legal concerns.
"I certainly made some terrible choices to do what I did," Donaghy said. "But the culture that existed within the game of the NBA enabled me to be able to do this at a very successful rate."
In the wake of Donaghy's first interview since the scandal broke, only one thing remains certain: the culture of the NBA will never be the same.
Written by Ken Berger