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"Man, did I f**k my life up" — Tim Donaghy on the NBA gambling scandal

In Netflix's "Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul" documentary, Tim Donaghy opened up about  the details of the gambling scandal that rocked the NBA
The Netflix is apparently working on a documentary about the gambling scandal in the NBA featuring Tim Donaghy

Tim Donaghy

As a promising and successful basketball referee who worked in the NBA for 13 seasons from 1994 to 2007, Tim Donaghy definitely has a crazy story to tell. He did just that in a recent Netflix documentary from the Untold series. 

"I have to live with it"

Donaghy spent five years as a high school basketball ref, followed by seven seasons in the Continental Basketball Association before he made it to the big league, where he officiated in 772 regular-season and 20 playoff games. Interestingly, he was part of the three-man referee crew at the infamous “Malice at the Palace” game that ended in an all-out Pacers–Pistons brawl. This story is covered fully in a separate episode from the Untold series on Netflix. 

"Man, did I f**k my life up. I certainly am not shying away from the fact that I made some mistakes and I made some poor choices. It is what it is, and unfortunately, I have to live with it."

Tim Donaghy, Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul

Basically, at one point, he started providing inside information to others who would then bet on the game Tim was refereeing. Of course, he would be financially rewarded for every correct outcome he announced to his low-level mob connections. Things were going fine until the FBI got involved while they were investigating the Gambino crime family that the low-level guys were connected to.

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Basically, it all went downhill from there as Donaghy turned himself in and pleaded guilty in 2007 to “conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce."

Donaghy fighting back

Donaghy did try fighting back, so in 2008 he filed a court document saying that the scandalous Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings had been fixed in order to extend the series to seven games. 

"Top executives of the NBA sought to manipulate games using referees," claimed Donaghy in the document.

No evidence was found about these allegations that were followed up with an investigation. Later that year, Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison for his role in the gambling scandal. After his release, he remained vocal about the experience through books and videos, while as of 2021, he became a Major League Wrestling referee.

In the aftermath of this mess, NBA Commissioner David Stern revised and changed some rules for the league’s referees. 

"Our ban on gambling is absolute, and in my view it is too absolute, too harsh and was not particularly well-enforced over the years," Stern said, via ESPN. "We're going to come up with a new set of rules that make sense."

"It's too easy to issue rules that are on their faith violated by $5 Nassau, sitting at a poker table, buying a lottery ticket and then we can move along," Stern said. "And by the time I got through and I determined going into a casino isn't a capital offense ... I'm the CEO of the NBA and I'll take responsibility," Stern concluded.

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