Harden’s dunk, LeBron’s travel, and the incompetence of NBA officiating

Lebron James and Anthony Davis playing for the LA Lakers
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Ricky Dimon

NBA· 1 year ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Officiating stinks in just about every sport these days, even with the benefit of video replay more often than not. There were no such benefits in the NBA’s two such disasters this month, and thus nothing could be done (although the Rockets still have other ideas) about the two missed calls.

It started with James Harden’s unsuccessful successful dunk during Tuesday’s game at San Antonio. If those officials thought no one would ever make a worse no-call, the zebras for Wednesday’s showdown between the Lakers and Jazz were quick to hold their beer. LeBron James pretty much moonwalked his way down the basketball court—with basketball in hand—but somehow escaped without a traveling violation.

The dunk

The botched call on Harden’s dunk was the tougher of the two situations (which isn’t necessarily saying a lot!), but it definitely had the bigger impact. Houston led 102-89 with 7:50 remaining when the NBA’s scoring leader dunked the ball through the hoop only to see the net bring it back up around the rim. Officials considered it to have missed and play resumed with the Rockets still leading 102-89. And of course the rest of the night played out like this: the Spurs stormed back to force overtime and eventually upset the Rockets 135-133 in double-OT.

Should the refs have gotten the call right? Sure. But it was something that basically everyone said they had never seen before in their entire history of watching basketball, so it is understandable if it caught the refs by surprise. Check out the fans, too, the next time you watch the video. When the ball exits the net, a whole host of them naturally think Harden missed the dunk and start celebrating and/or mocking him for what they assumed was an epic blunder.

More ridiculous than the call is that the Rockets actually had the audacity to say they were confident the NBA would go back and give them the win. LOL. When that obviously didn’t happen, the Rockets actually had the audacity to formally protest the game. Yeah, good luck with that!

The travel

Things are quite simply going better for the Lakers these days than they are for the Rockets. Houston is still a decent 14-7, but it could be even better heading into Saturday’s date with Phoenix (check out our free NBA previews and predictions). Better is exactly what LeBron and company are, sporting a 20-3 record. Much unlike the case with Harden’s crew, even the calls are going L.A.’s way. Early in the first quarter on Wednesday, LeBron quite clearly forgot one dribble on his way down the floor—taking four steps instead of two prior to the next bounce. Also much unlike Harden’s case, both the fans and especially one official had great views of what happened. Everyone in the crowd seemed to notice, but somehow the one official who was right there did nothing. LeBron was allowed to continue free of charge.

It certainly did not impact the game’s outcome, as Los Angeles eventually dominated 121-96. Still, a league that has otherwise done a better job of late in terms of clamping down on similar tomfoolery has to demand a higher standard from its refs.

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