Tension. This word perfectly defines the relationship between players and referees in any type of sport, at any level. It’s practically impossible to go through an entire game without at least one disagreement between a player and a ref, simply because of the competitive nature of sports. In few sports is this strain more apparent than in basketball.
To be honest, more than half of the plays in a basketball game are accompanied with some kind of disagreement between a player and the ref, whether it be about the validity of a foul call, whether a player really stepped out of bounds, whether another player’s defensive assignment traveled, or a plethora of other potential complaints. Not only the players get involved in these arguments. The coaches, in fact, are far more demonstrative than the players, particularly nowadays, about vocalizing their displeasure with a call.
In recent years, the NBA has done a lot to reduce the tension, including making any play within the final two minutes of the second and fourth quarters reviewable, as well as any plays in the final two minutes of all overtime periods. However, one issue players, coaches and fans alike have had is that there has never been a way to contest a referee’s decision. Well, now there is.
The NBA held its annual Board of Governors meeting earlier today, and it passed a motion that will give head coaches challenge flags, beginning this coming season. According to a press release from the meeting, the challenge flags can be used to contest personal foul calls, out of bounds calls, goaltending or basket interference.
This is a momentous occasion, as it will give head coaches a chance to have more of an impact on a referee’s decision than just yelling at them and getting a technical. For now, it’ll only be used on a one-year trial basis, but it is likely to become a permanent fixture in the following seasons, especially given the success of the system in the NFL and MLB. Not only do I think that this is a good move for the NBA, but I see it as a decision that should have been made years ago. If it’s good enough for the other major professional sports, it’s good enough for basketball.