Ever hear of the Black Sox and the 1919 World Series scandal? "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago baseball players banned for life after throwing the World Series? Perhaps Pete Rose is more familiar to you? Rose was banned for betting on baseball during his time as a manager. Well that's baseball. Fixing games couldn't possibly happen in the NBA could it? The FBI believes that New York Knicks players shaved points during the 1980's.
Most believe there's just too many moving parts in the NBA for games to be fixed. However, in 2007 the FBI investigated disgraced referee Tim Donaghy for allegedly betting on games that he officiated. It was fairly easy to understand how a referee could affect a point spread by either making or failing to make a call here or there during a games. When Donaghy pled guilty and served time it was believed it was an isolated incident.
For the most part it's believed that most referees follow the NBA's orders, not a bookies. However, twenty years earlier that was another scandal the NBA was forced to deal with. At that time, the FBI alleged there were New York Knicks involved with shaving points. To this day, the federal bureau of investigation believes those Knicks are guilty.
Do you remember Campy Russell and Marvin Webster? How about Maurice Lucas and Mike Newlin? Maybe the names Bill Cartwright and Paul Westphal ring a bell? Surely you remember the name of Michael Ray Richardson?
These are some of the members of the 1981-82 Knicks who have been accused of fixing games for a drug dealer. Those who decided to chance the outcome or point spread of games for that dealer allowed him to bet against New York and make a small fortune off the anemic squad.
Gary Buiso of The New York Post reports how the dealer was a regular customer of his bookie but increased his wager on games he was told the fix was in on.
The feds probed whether three Knicks, reportedly “heavy users of cocaine,” and their supplier, “one of the largest dealers on the East Coast,” shaved points, according to FBI documents cited in Brian Tuohy’s book, “Larceny Games: Sports Gambling, Game Fixing and the FBI.”
The dealer was a degenerate gambler who usually bet $300 a game, informants told investigators, but in January 1982 he began laying $10,000 wagers on Knicks’ opponents — and winning them.
To make things worse, those three unnamed players are also accused of betting on games to pay off debts as well.
At the same time, FBI moles began to suspect the Knick trio were “betting against themselves.”
In November, an informant told the feds one of the schemers owed a “large . . . gambling debt” to a Luchese crime-family bookie.
“So many people say it’s impossible to fix a game because guys are paid so much money,” Tuohy told The Post. “But you can see how easily they can get hooked on some drug, be gambling themselves and get in deep with a bookie.”
It's easy to see how a player could play poorly on purpose to affect the final score or decide if defeats fall within or outside the point spread. It doesn't take rocket science. A few fouls here, a few missed shots there, a couple turnovers and all of a sudden a four point lead becomes a 12 point lead. That could send a lot of money one direction or another.
The leader of that years squad was Richardson who would end up being banned for life from the NBA for violating its drug policy in three times in 1986. However, he denies the allegations even though the FBI believes they are true.
“Hell no!” Richardson, 58 and living in Texas, told The Post when asked about the point-shaving allegations. “We never did anything like that.”
In the end, the team fell to 33-49 and finishing last in the Atlantic Division that season. In fact, the FBI believes other teams were likely involved in shaving points for the dealer as well. However, history will show that their terrible record wasn't the most shameful part of the Knicks' 1981-82 season. It was the fact they disgraced the game they claimed to love all for the love of drugs and money.
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