It has been said that the best example of the greatness of Michael Jordan was making the world believe that Scottie Pippen was one of the 50 greatest players in the history of the NBA.  But that act of misdirection is now being challenged by NBA commissioner David Stern, who is doing a bang up job of convincing the world that disgraced referee Tim Donaghy was just a rogue lone wolf in his gambling on professional basketball games, and that the NBA has effectively closed this matter.  In this manner, Stern has done more to preserve the NBA than Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson combined.

Donaghy, who was recently released after serving 11 months in prison for betting on NBA games, appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, where he continued to tell the same story he has since his crimes were brought to light. He said he used his knowledge of what he has called the “hidden agendas” of other referees — their biases for or against certain players, coaches and owners — to help him gamble and gamble successfully on games. He also alleged that the refs received instructions from NBA officials that implied they should help extend playoff series and to keep larger-market teams from getting eliminated too early, both of which meant higher television ratings and more cash for the league.

Stern has not made a single comment on Donaghy’s comments, hoping that his silence will make Donaghy’s claims less of a story, and believing that commenting on Donaghy at all would only serve to legitimize his claims. And Stern’s silence is working.  Donaghy’s claims have been scrutinized ad nauseum (Donaghy is trying to profit of his notoriety, having released a book that he is trying to promote with his recent media blitz), while Stern and the NBA’s claims that Donaghy’s action were his and his alone and had no effect on the league as whole have been treated almost as gospel.

And why is this?  Because no one has any interest in bringing the NBA down. Sure, we think the refs make inexplicably bad calls at times, but we want to be able to belive that these calls are indeed inexplicable.  The media has no interest in tearing down the league, either.  Especially TNT or ESPN, both of whom have broadcast contracts with the NBA.  The hope is  that all of this will simply go away, and the truth is that it will as long as Stern keeps his mouth shut and no other revelations are unearthed.  The NBA has seen unprecedented growth during the Stern era, and the league is in much better shape than it was when his tenure began.  But his greatest achievement may very well be keeping  the fire away from the fuse on the Donaghy powder keg.

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