An Open Letter to David Stern


Dec 5, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA commissioner David Stern on the court before a game between the New Orleans Hornets and the Los Angeles Lakers at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Dear David Stern,

I regret to inform you that I’m once again displeasured by some of the things I see as I watch the 2013 NBA Playoffs. On Monday, June 3rd, the Miami Heat decisively beat the Indiana Pacers in order to gain rights to the 2013 NBA Finals. Not surprising at all, and of course, that game was perfectly fine and officiated well.

What I’m displeased with, however, is not the fact that the Heat won, but the fact that the officials were able to influence the basketball games so heavily.

For example, players like LeBron James get every single call that they ask for. Sure, I understand the need to protect a superstar, but why is it so important that other teams are influenced by it?  I got tired of seeing Paul George shaking his head to some of the officials’ calls. Not that it’s easy and pressure-less to officiate a game of such weight, but sometimes, they get the calls horribly wrong, especially when it matters.

I’m not calling out James by himself, or any of the refs individually, but I’m trying to understand their decision-making in crucial moments. For the Heat, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, James was charged with an illegal pick, turning out to be his sixth personal foul.

It didn’t look like a foul at all. In this case, the ref was trying to overcompensate to show that the NBA isn’t rigged. That’s fine, but why did they have to call something that wasn’t even a foul at all? How about giving the Pacers a call at the other end instead of taking out the Heat’s best?

Don’t get me wrong, I love the NBA and will continue to watch it no matter what, but sometimes, I get very frustrated with the ticky-tack fouls that the refs call. When Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were playing the game, they didn’t get and-one’s by getting touched on the wrist. They got and-one’s by being shoved to the ground and making a tough shot. In the NBA today, touch fouls also determine the weight of the game.

What about the new technical foul rules? Some players are screaming at the refs for a call, while others make a simple gesture, and are kicked out of the game. Sometimes, it seems arbitrary to me. I don’t blame the refs in this case, that’s the way that they’re told to call it.

The fining also has to stop. A $5,000 for flopping is almost nothing for players like James, who are making upwards of $50 million per year. There’s really no point in fining someone for something that’s a part of the game. Sure, it may be considered cheating, but the refs will always make that mistake, they’re only human. What is fining going to do to the best players? Find a different penalty for that.

I know that you’re trying to make the game as clean and uncorrupted as possible, but sometimes it seems like you want certain teams to win, and you’re telling the refs that as well. I may be delusional, but just ask the fans who boo you at the NBA Draft year after year.

Have a nice one,

Tej Kamaraju at Golden Gate Sports