This season’s third episode in the Untold series, directed by David Terry Fine (Salaam Dunk), deals with the story of former NBA referee Tim Donaghy. Now, Donaghy’s name might be familiar to people out there who are not basketball or NBA fans. The story of his giving insider information on games and getting some money for it was all over the news in 2007. It was a big stain on the reputation of the NBA (as it would have been for any sport) in that a person directly involved in making sure the rules of the game are being followed was involved in betting on games. Oh oh!
I remember the headlines and stories in the news at the time, then kind of forgot what went on. This documentary not only brought the story back onto my radar but gave me the opportunity to hear the story from several different points of view. Including Tim Donaghy’s. Donaghy is extensively interviewed here as is his wife, the bookie friend he was supplying the information to and the member of a New York crime family who was making tons of money off of the insider info. It is the first time that the three got to extensively tell their side of what went on.
Not surprising as this entire Untold series has been of high quality, but this was a really interesting doc. Mostly because of the three men primarily involved – Tim Donaghy, Thomas Martino and James Battista. What is interesting is that none of these men are very likable and/or trustworthy. Even after watching I am sure we do not have the whole story. That is not especially surprising. What was for me was the inferences about the league itself and then NBA commissioner, David Stern. How powerful he was and went to great lengths to protect the NBA and any complicity it had in the story. Or finding out if this was an isolated incident or if there were other NBA refs, players or others involved in the league betting on games. I was left at the end doubting that the problem began and ended with Donaghy.
We learn of the unwritten rule about how referees are to treat differently star players versus average NBAers. Meaning you don’t call travelling against Jordan even though he did it over and over because fans paid big money to see him do his thing. Not to see a ref call fouls or violations.
Though it gets a little repetitive at times, this episode definitely holds your interest. Mostly because you do not think the “mystery” has been solved. Even the former FBI investigator on the case, Phil Scala, alludes to this. You also come away wondering why a man who loved basketball so much and dreamed of being an NBA referee would throw it all away. Especially one who had risen to near the top of the NBA referee food chain. So it leaves you with plenty of questions still swimming around your brain, which I find very appealing as opposed to being spoonfed or led around by the nose.