The NBA Has an Officiating Problem


The NBA has an officiating problem and it is having a major impact on the NBA product. 

Referees are humans. 

They are going to make mistakes just like the rest of the world. However, the logistics of officiating are consistently inconsistent and they need to be solved. 

Selective enforcement 

Over time, NBA players and coaches and NBA officials formed relationships as the two sides have been involved in countless games together. 

One of the issues with the officiating is that some players are given a longer leash to argue than other players. 

Take Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, for example. Green has had a history of controversial plays in which some plays were so egregious, yet he was allowed to stay on the floor. 

The same plays in which Green committed, would likely be an ejection for 90 percent of the league. Green is notable for constantly barking at the officiating after questionable call or no call.

The officiating tends to be lenient towards Green and allow him to continue to chirp away. Meanwhile, for the majority of the league, players are given a technical foul the moment they start cursing at an official.

This is called selective enforcement. Certain players are given more grace when having a conversation with an official, to the point they can get away with screaming at an official, while other players are not given the same leniency. 

Which begs the question: Why aren’t the calm and collected players the ones given more grace?

It would make sense for the officials to be lenient towards the players that give more grace, than the ones that constantly berate them.

Selling contact and the size disadvantage 

Bigger players are punished just for simply being a bigger body. Yes, it is difficult at times for officials to see bigs get fouled as they drive to the rim or post up, but it does not make sense why bigs can’t get the calls they deserve. 

If a light push in the back foul is called for a small guard, that’s a fine call to make, as long as there is consistency. If that’s a foul, then the bigs should be living at the free-throw line when they get hammered inside the paint. 

Giving the officiating some benefit of the doubt, one thing they are consistent at is rewarding players who sell the contact, regardless of their size. However, now this leads to more free throws for players who flop often while players who are actually tackled on shots are not receiving the same whistle. 

Take LeBron James for example.

James has been notably criticized for flopping and complaining about no calls when he puts his head down and drives to the rim.

But, more often than not, James is actually getting hammered when he attacks the rim. So, sometimes James exaggerates the contact so he can get a call.

So, bigger players at times are getting fouled but the officiating cannot see the contact. Flopping should be eliminated from the game, but should big men be allowed to exaggerate the contact so they have a better chance of receiving a whistle?

Consistently inconsistent calls

It’s quite strange that the officiating tends to call the easy fouls or non fouls incorrectly, while being quite consistent enough to get the tougher calls correctly. 

When a player, in defensive legal guarding position, goes vertical to contest a shot, that is a no call. However, the officials make it harder than it should be. 

They consistently call fouls on defensive players for going vertical. The reality is that these plays are ones where the officials should swallow their whistle. 

Many times, when a player speaks to an official, it appears that he is arguing with the official over a call or no call. Sometimes, the players are not even arguing over a call or no call. 

When they see that they don’t get a particular call in which their counterpart receives the exact same call on the other end, players will just ask that they receive that same call. 

All players want is consistency. 

Take this tough call to make. When two players, one from each team, simultaneously knock the ball out of bounds, that’s generally a difficult call to make on the spot. 

For the most part, there will be at least one official that has a great angle on the play and they make the correct call without having to go to the monitor for a review. But sometimes, they make the incorrect call. 

As fans, we have the luxury of replay and we can confirm ourselves if the call was correct or not. 

Referees are human. Getting a call incorrect is OK. 

But, giving one team a particular call and not giving the other team that same call is inconsistent. 

At the end of the day, NBA players and coaches want consistent logical officiating.

About Mac Pham

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