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Tim Donaghy documentary: Stands by ‘I wasn’t fixing (NBA) games’

Tim Donaghy documentary: Stands by ‘I wasn’t fixing (NBA) games’
Suns guard Raja Bell argues a call with official Tim Donaghy during game #3 of the Western Conference semifinals playoff series. (Credit: Michael Chow-USA TODAY NETWORK)

NEW YORK (BVM) – Ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy to this day denies ever rigging NBA games to be in his favor, but he has held himself accountable for the illegal bets he placed on games he officiated. Donaghy told his truth in Tuesday’s premiere of the Netflix documentary, “Untold: Operation Flagrant Foul.”

“Man, did I f— my life up,” Donaghy said in his “Untold” interview. He later said, “I wasn’t fixing the games… I had inside information and that’s all I needed to make these picks correct.” 

Donaghy, now 55, is about 15 years removed from one of the biggest scandals in American sports history. With the documentary’s release, here’s some information on the 2007 NBA betting scandal and Donaghy now. 

What did Tim Donaghy do? 

An NBA referee’s salary in recent years has ranged from $180,000 to $550,000, according to Career Explorer Guide. Donaghy admits in the documentary that he was making $400,000 a year before the betting. He officiated his first NBA game in 1994 and would go onto gamble on over 100 games during the 2003-2007 seasons. It wasn’t until 2006 when he met with James Battista – the man now known as his main co-conspirator and the one who allegedly threatened Donaghy to help him with his multi-million dollar bets. 

“… [Battista said to me] you don’t want somebody from New York visiting your wife and kids in Florida,” Donaghy said in his “Untold” interview. “And when he said that, I was scared…. I didn’t really have a choice…. If it wasn’t for that (threat), I definitely would not have bet with him.”

Battista denies in his “Untold” interview ever threatening Donaghy. He claims Donaghy was in it for the money since they were moving $3 million dollars a day together. Donaghy claims he only made $2,000 for every correct pick, but the number would vary on some occasions. 

“There was a lot of different information I could use to make these picks,” Donaghy said. “Referees would share information with each other. Maybe a referee had an issue with a coach or player. Maybe a trainer came into the locker room before the game and said a couple of their players were hurt.”

He claims he never benched players or called fouls to rig the game in favor of his bets. He says he simply made picks based on what he knew the NBA wanted him and others referees to do — significantly accusing the NBA of rigging its own games.

“I was refereeing [Philadelphia 76ers vs Chicago Bulls],” Donaghy started. “They were cracking down on a spin move…Michael Jordan does the spin move, and I make the call… [Later on, in the locker room,] the other referees said they want that call, but don’t call it on him. The way David Stern structured the league, we as officials knew that it was better to treat the star players better than others. These people that pay thousands of dollars to sit courtside here, they didn’t come here to see Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal sit on the bench.” 

Did Tim Donaghy fix NBA games?

Donaghy pleaded guilty in federal court to gambling and wire fraud, and in 2008, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison. But, he never admitted any guilt to fixing NBA games that he was betting on. FBI agents found it hard to believe – and many fans do today – that he didn’t purposely fix games when he had so much money at stake. 

“I had to sign a document that said subconsciously I could have made calls in the game based on the bets,” Donaghy commented about his guilt. 

“He fixed them (games) like a mother——,” Battista said, who later commented, “I bet 47 games with Timmy. We went 37 and 10 (78.7% winning percentage). Tim Donaghy, he controlled the outcome… Timmy was the king of fixing games.”  

“He’ll never ever admit it,” said Donaghy’s ex-wife Kimberly Donaghy, who actually filed for divorce amidst the scandal breaking. “No one will ever know, but Tim.” 

Where is Tim Donaghy now?

The documentary shows that Donaghy still lives a very comfortable lifestyle. After getting released from prison in 2009, the disgraced referee needed a job to support himself and his four children. He ironically ended up selling sports picks, worked in a gambling treatment center, and in 2021, he became a Major League Wrestling referee. He currently invests in real estate properties and works as a landlord. 

He remains one of the most hated figures in the history of the NBA as Donaghy is forever synonymous with the term, “cheating NBA referees.” After countless death threats, it’s no surprise why he stays away from being active on public social media. 

Donaghy, with this documentary and other present-day appearances, is trying to change the narrative of his story. He wants people to believe that the NBA itself is more at fault and says people should question the integrity of those in charge. It’s up to fans if they want to believe the conspiracy theory of the NBA rigging its own games.