Ch. 2: The Obsession over LeBron James & Billion $ TV-Deals

After the AFC Championship Game debacle, I started looking into sports fixing and discovered the site According to an expert on the topic who runs that site (Brian Tuohy) the NFL and NBA’s histories are littered with fixing, and an enormous number of important games either get manipulated by the referees to give one team an advantage, or in some cases, flat out fixed.

I started watching for this favoritism consistently, and in general started watching sports from a new perspective- critically evaluating the officiating of games and looking for clear trends of favoritism.  Most notably I started following the referee stats in basketball, which are free throw attempts and foul calls on a nightly basis, for every NBA game.

(*It’s important to note that referees in basketball have a huge impact on a game without it ever appearing in the boxscore.  3 seconds in-the-key, out of bounds calls, travelling/ non-travelling calls, lane violations, which plays get reviewed/ which don’t- none of these aspects get quantified in the boxscore.)

I was shocked at the obviousness of what was happening in the NBA with the 2 quantifiable referee statistics. In roughly 90% of games, the more glamorous, talked about, big market team shot more free throws and had less fouls called on them.  I was looking at every boxscore, for every game, from mid-January through the end of the playoffs. The trends are crystal clear.  

Specifically, I was shocked at most Cavaliers games.  The Cavs always got the best of the officiating and it became obvious that the NBA was trying to help the Cavs/ LeBron as much as possible.  (At some point I’d like to go back and evaluate the officiating statistics of all Cavaliers games in 2017/18). It’s my educated opinion that the Cavaliers may not have even made the playoffs this past season if all their games were officiated evenly. They finished 4th in the East, and that was with the help of the referees in almost every game they played from at least late-January onwards.  In the playoffs the favoritism, and in a few cases, true fixing that happened for Cleveland was shocking; there was a clear agenda by the NBA to ensure LeBron played as many games as possible and got to his 8th straight Finals. 

LeBron has been made into a God-like figure by the NBA, thus his greatness is insanely overstated. Certainly he is one of the best players of all-time, but again, its enormously overstated. There are easily a dozen players that belong in the “best-of-all-time” discussion, but the mainstream media always reduces this topic to Jordan vs. LeBron.  There’s a bizarre obsession over LBJ that I cannot understand.  He’s a topic almost 365 days per year, and the NBA for the most part, has turned a League of 30 teams and approximately 50 star-players into a one-athlete 365-day soap opera. 

Simply put, the NBA has created a League in which the fringe/casual fans will only apparently watch if LeBron is playing, (which has occurred due to the 365-day news cycle about him), so from a ratings perspective, when LeBron loses, the NBA loses.  This is the REAL REASON LeBron James has played in 8-straight Finals- because if his team gets eliminated before the end of the playoffs, the NBA loses money, and pisses off their biggest customer- the TV Networks.

The NBA needs him to play in every round of the playoffs to maximize viewership, thus maximizing value for their TV-partners who spend Billions of dollars on the broadcast rights. The NBA’s biggest customer is not the millions of fans- it’s the TV-networks who pay them Billions to broadcast the sport.  It’s my educated opinion that during the last TV-deal negotiations there was probably secretive clauses guaranteeing that LeBron would play in a certain amount of Finals over the course of the contract. 

Continue to Part 3 of this essay-