It’s Time To Change The NBA’s Video Review Policy

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Technology has done so much for basketball, especially the NBA.

It has allowed the league to beam its games all over the world and reap billions of dollars in the process.

It has also allowed players to hone their fitness, reduce their travel time and improve their recovery and the number of years they can play at NBA level and make NBA wages for longer.

I love my NBA League Pass and also love wearing my NBA merchandise shipped straight from the US to my home in Australia.

But when it comes to the NBA’s video review system – it’s time to go old school and place the power back in the referees’ hands.

LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers called for video review to be scraped following what he called a blown decision which contributed to his side’s game 5 Western Conference semi-final loss to Oklahoma City Thunder.

Rivers was “pissed” about a video review decision late in the game in which Clippers forward Matt Barnes looked to have stripped Thunder guard Reggie Jackson of the ball as he drove the basket attempting to take the lead for his side.

Replays appeared to show Barnes hitting the hands of Jackson as he went for a layup with Jackson then appearing to touch the ball after it came loose, hence knocking it out of bounds.

The referee called no foul on the play but when reviewed by the referees they gave the ball to the Thunder.

I don’t think the league needs to completely scrap the system but it needs to cut down the areas big brother in which can have oversight.

Namely, the video needs to be used for when referees can’t make a firm decision on whether a shot is a two or three pointer and when it comes to decisions on whether a shot left a player’s hands before the shot clock expired.

In those areas video can give comprehensive information which the referee’s human brain cannot match.

But when it comes to deciding fouls and out of bounds calls – these are areas which, for the most part, require a human decision.

Sometimes the two-dimensional cameras give us a clear decision, other times they don’t and because of that we should leave it to the referees to make the call.

Now I hear you all saying that video replays can show a player hitting another player’s arm and can show a player stepping out of bounds or touching the ball with the tip of his finger.

But the video is not always conclusive and can often give contradictory information when shown at full speed or slow motion.

The referee making a decision on the court gives an immediate and, for the most part, fair outcome.

Yes, referees can be swayed by crowds but that is just an element of the human condition and nobody in the NBA is better conditioned at playing down crowd noise than NBA referees as they face such crowds every night over the season.

We have to fight to keep our game human and make sure the outcome of games is not handed over to robots and computers.

Pro sport is at its best when we have humans competing against humans while other humans try to shape events (i.e. coach) and more humans try to keep them playing by the rules (referees).

The NBA needs to looks deeply into its business-minded, corporate heart and score a win for the humanists.

We need an NBA in which games are decided by players and where decisions, for better or worse, are made by referees.

Plus it will never be much fun yelling at computers – “You suck, R2D2” isn’t near as satisfying as “You’re blind, Joey Crawford”.

About the Author

Roy Ward Roy Ward is a basketball writer from Melbourne, Australia. He covers men’s and women’s basketball and rugby league for The Age newspaper and Fairfax Media. Roy is a huge Boston Celtics fan but loves seeing his fellow Australians playing in the NBA. Send any feedback to him via twitter at @rpjward.