Disgraced NBA Referee Tim Donaghy Revealed the Player He Almost Fought

The NBA would be hard-pressed to find a more infamous name in its history than Tim Donaghy’s. He is, after all, the face of a scandal that rocked the NBA when it came out that he had gambled on games that he, himself, had officiated. Since going down in infamy, Donaghy has not been silent about his sordid past, and he constantly makes the media rounds ever since.

His latest media appearance was at Barstool on the podcast Pardon My Take, and in the interview, he did not hold back when it came to one specific player. 

Tim Donaghy’s past

Tim Donaghy’s downfall began in 2007 when former classmate Jimmy Battista asked Donaghy if he wanted to earn some extra money while he was still an official in the NBA. Battista said that if Donaghy could keep games close or far enough to cover the spread, he’d give him $2,000 a game to do so. Battista used Donaghy to form a gambling group similar to a hedge fund in which they could pool money and make it big with Donaghy’s help. 

Donaghy would call informants of Battista and tell them his pick to win the game. As a result, they correctly bet on 88% of the games that Donaghy gave them. This was not Donaghy’s flirtation with gambling on games he was working. According to ESPN, Donaghy had been gambling on games since 2003, and his meeting with Battista was just a bonus on top of this. 

Donagh was eventually brought down by Phil Scala, an FBI investigator with 30 years of experience after an informant told him that a referee was in the pocket with an NBA referee. This eventually caused the whole house of cards to fall, with Donaghy becoming the face of the biggest gambling scandal in professional sports since the Black Sox scandal of 1919. 

Bad reputation

It should be no surprise to fans that Tim Donaghy’s knack for calling games tight made him unpopular with players and coaches who, while unaware of what was actually going on, still had an issue with the way that he called games. One of these players was All-Star forward Rasheed Wallace, whose volatile relationship with referees is legendary across NBA circles. 

When asked who he had the worst relationship with, Donaghy was quick to throw out Wallace’s name. When speaking about Wallace, Donaghy recalled a story about the famously animated Wallace. 

“He threw a ball at my partner in a game that was a blowout,” Donaghy said. And I gave him a technical foul, and he got all bent out of shape that I did that, and waited out for me in the parking garage and, basically, wanted to fight me.”

According to Donaghy, instead of shrugging Wallace off he squared up as though he were ready to fight him on the spot hoping that people would grab them before anybody threw punches. Wallace eventually received a seven-game suspension but maintained that Donaghy was acting in bad faith, as well. 

Wallace wasn’t the only person Donaghy bumped heads with, however. 

Tim Donaghy vs. coaches

According to Tim Donaghy several coaches also had issues with the disgraced referee. When asked if any coaches had issues with him, two names immediately came to mind. 

“[Karl] was a guy that was really tough,” Donaghy said. “I had a lot of run-ins with him. Larry Brown was tough, but off the floor, he seemed to be a good guy.”

Karl and Brown were two notoriously hot-headed coaches who would spar with anyone if they were not getting their ways, so a referee like Donaghy was bound to get under their skin every once in a while. 

Donaghy brought a lot of the ire on himself, and he has paid the price many times over. He has been fired from the NBA, sent to prison, and become synonymous with corruption by officials. While he will never be absolved from his actions, hearing him speak, even when taken with a grain of salt, is a fascinating look at a man in his position.