Disgraced ref Tim Donaghy knows where the NBA’s betting weakness lies

DENVER — As online sports gambling explodes and is intertwined with leagues, Tim Donaghy, the disgraced NBA referee and an expert in the pitfalls of corruptibility, doesn’t believe a player or referee will follow in his footsteps.

Instead, Donaghy sees the lower-level employees as the conduit of inside information to gamblers.

“I think the players make too much money. I think the referees, after my situation, I don’t think it would be a referee,” Donaghy told The Post. “I think it’ll come down to maybe a trainer or somebody that has information before it hits the open market about players being sick or players being injured. I think that’s how stuff is going to leak out.”

Michael Jordan #23 of the Washington Wizards talks with referee Tim Donaghy during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on February 12, 2003 at Staples Center. Getty Images

A financial boon to the NBA and other leagues in the form of sponsorship dollars, online gambling, still in its relative infancy as a legal enterprise in most parts of the U.S., has fallen under heightened scrutiny in recent days.

Last week, the NBA fined Rudy Gobert $100,000 for inferring through a gesture — and later in interviews — that a referee was paid off.

Tuesday, the NBA revealed its new option for League Pass viewers to track betting odds as they watch games on the app while supplying links to wager with the league’s partners, FanDuel and DraftKings.

Wednesday, Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff revealed he and his family were threatened by gamblers through messages on his personal phone.

Tim Donaghy stands on the court during the game between the New York Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks. Getty Images

In baseball, Shohei Ohtani, the sport’s biggest name, is currently embroiled in a gambling scandal involving his interpreter and $4.5 million.

Despite a swell of fans and players questioning the officiating competency in the NBA, Donaghy reiterated his belief that NBA officials aren’t on the take, if only because he served as the poster child for the consequences.

Defense attorney John Lauro walks away from Brooklyn Federal Courthouse after his client, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, pleaded guilty to two felony charges August 15, 2007 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Donaghy, charged with conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting of gambling information. Getty Images

Donaghy went to prison in 2008 following a federal investigation into him fixing games.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information through interstate commerce.

“There was no education or warnings with us as a group when we have our preseason meetings that this can happen, stay away from this. I’m sure they educate referees at the preseason camp [now], tell them they can go to jail and lose your job, and it would be a total disaster,” Donaghy said. “And they make pretty good money, so I’d like to think one of them wouldn’t fall into what I fell into.

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“I think if someone is going to leak some information that’s really not making the money they should, it would be like a trainer. Even a ballboy. Some of these ballboys are 20 or 25 years old. They’re in the locker room.”

Injuries in the NBA are indeed treated as secretive and represent potentially valuable currency in the gambling world.

Kobe Bryant talks to referee Tim Donaghy in the first half against the Phoenix Suns in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2006 NBA Playoffs. Getty Images

Teams often wait until the last minute to divulge the status of their players, with injury reports not due until 5 p.m. on the day before the game.

Even then, a “questionable” status on the injury report doesn’t have to be updated until 30 minutes before tipoff.

The NBA has been a partner with FanDuel since 2014.

Rudy Gobert inferred an NBA official was paid off. Getty Images

In 2021, the league announced FanDuel and DraftKings as “the co-official sports betting partners.”

Donaghy said he finds irony in his vilified status in the context of the NBA’s full-on embrace of gambling but added he’s in no position to judge.

The NBA, like every other company, appreciates money.

“It’s a situation where I shouldn’t have been near that line that I was near. And not only was I near it, I jumped way over it,” Donaghy said. “So it’s kind of strange for me to question what they’re doing after what I did. I think it just comes down to the bottom line of doing whatever you can do to make that cap go up and revenue go up.”

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