The 2006 NBA Finals remain one of the most talked-about series in recent memory. It had a young Dwyane Wade tearing apart a Dallas Mavericks squad led by a prime Dirk Nowitzki, a comeback by a team down 0-2, and of course, a lot of controversies. Those who are old enough to remember the series remember Wade getting the line at will. At the same time, several believe that the league allowed it to happen.
With Mark Cuban involved, however, these accusations of referee bias were bound to go above and beyond the typical ranting and raving.
The 2006 NBA Finals
The 2006 NBA Finals had a little bit of everything going for it. On the one hand, a Mavericks team who had recently given up a future MVP without return was playing some of the best basketball in the history of their franchise.
On the other was a Miami Heat team in its second year with superstar center Shaquille O’Neal and an up-and-comer named Dwyane Wade. Both sides were in their first NBA Finals series and wanted to bring home the gold.
Initially, the series looked like a blowout waiting to happen. The Mavericks won the first two games by double digits and dominated for much of the game.
In game three, however, the Heat turned a game that could have been over and made a statement. The Heat were down 13 late in the game when Wade put on the gas and led a rallying victory over the Mavericks with 42 points and 13 rebounds.
Not content with doing this just once, Wade followed this up with a 36-point performance in a blowout win to tie up the series. In game five, the score was tied with two seconds left when Josh Howard called a time out. The only problem was that the team did not have any timeouts left. The Heat took a one-point lead thanks to the ensuing technical and won the game.
Wade and the Heat followed that controversial win up with a series-clinching three-point win in game six. Wade was the MVP, and his team was the NBA Champion. The Mavericks were forced to watch as their hopes went away one basket and free throw at a time.
The elephant in the room
Wade was truly dominant against the Mavericks. He drove to the basket at will and even hit multiple big threes throughout the series. Lost in all of that, however, was the fact that Wade went to the line 97 times throughout the series or nearly 16 times per game, according to Ball is Life. The highest number of free throws that a Maverick shot was 55 by Dirk Nowitzki.
It’s true that Wade figured out the Mavericks’ defense and took advantage of their faults, but that type of advantage is unprecedented. Mavericks fans spent years trying to belittle the 2006 Championship by saying that it was handed to the Heat by the referees. Mark Cuban was especially vocal about his disdain for the referees. Still, even by his standards, he may have gone a little overboard.
Did Mark Cuban call the FBI?
Mark Cuban’s team has rarely lost a game or series where the owner didn’t suspect foul play. For example, according to Business Insider, the following year, he tried to withdraw payment toward his former head coach, Don Nelson, for using inside knowledge to help defeat his first-seeded Mavericks as the coach of the eighth-seeded Warriors. Even that didn’t go as far as Cuban allegedly did in 2006, however.
Warren Flagg, a retired FBI Agent at the time, claimed that Cuban was considering a lawsuit against the NBA after the Finals and asked him for advice on the matter.
“Cuban asked me what he should do,” Flagg said (per Courthouse News). “I told him, ‘Sue and you’ll win your case,’ but he knew he’d be killing the Golden Goose.”
Flagg claimed that Cuban was so mad that he was considering going scorched earth on the NBA. However, Cuban recently denied these claims on Twitter.
“To set the record straight, I have never hired or consulted with any former FBI agents to investigate our 2006 Finals,” Cuban tweeted.
Cuban maintains that his team was dealt a lousy hand by officials, but he never went through on his plans to sue. His team would get revenge on Wade and the Heat years later, however, as the Heat fell to his team in 2011.
While Cuban denies the measures he took following the 2006 series, it is an entirely believable situation. Whether or not it was true, it’s an entertaining story, to say the least.
-All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference