It’s May 31st, 2002, Lakers vs. Kings at the Staples Center. Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. A day that Kings fans will never forget as it was the day of the most controversial officiating performance in NBA history. It could be recency bias, but more than that it is just more plausible than the frozen envelope, Jordan’s two-year vacation and other conspiracy theories.
We already covered this game when Tim Donaghy, the only NBA ref ever to serve time for his involvement in a gambling scandal, publicly said that the league and officials didn’t want the Kings to win. A lot of people were very critical immediately after the game.
If there were one moment that captures the absurdity of the game it would be one of the last plays of the game. Despite the one-sided calls – the Lakers shot 27 free throws in the 4th quarter, while the Kings only shot 9 – Sacramento was down only one point when Mike Bibby fouled Kobe Bryant’s elbow with his nose.
This was an obvious foul by Kobe, and we have the angle that shows the ref had a clear line of sight to the whole thing. Bibby’s reaction and the reaction of the whole team tells you all you need to know about the officiating that night. They didn’t even complain or act surprised. This became the most famous nose foul in NBA history.
If you want to check out all the controversial calls and the reactions in the aftermath, or you are a masochistic Kings fan, and you can’t look away – here you go.