a story about my dad

part of this story I’ve known for a while.
But a big part of this story was told to me
for the first time, last Wednesday night,
at the PISTONS season opener
(my 48th season with the PISTONS!)


First, the part of the story I already knew:

Some of you will remember that about fifteen years ago
there was a gambling scandal
among National Basketball Association referees
which shook the league to its core.
There was an FBI sting-operation.
In the end, the crooked referees were exposed
and a few of them went to prison

(I should note that my good friend Rasheed Wallace
was very early on in speaking out publicly about the corruption
well before the sting-operation was even underway)

When it became clear that there were, in fact,
referees who were gambling and throwing basketball games,
my father offered
to personally refund
every ticket purchased
by every fan
for the entire NBA season!

It didn’t matter to him that this would have cost millions and millions of dollars,
it’s just that he wasn’t going to be a part of selling the fans a dishonest product.

The other team owners wouldn’t join him in this,
arguing that he was going to destroy the NBA.

Unfortunately, my father died before he was able to do any of this,
and his efforts to refund the fans’ tickets died with him

So that’s the part of the story I already knew.

Here’s the part I didn’t know:

And to me, it’s just another example of how

A few years before the gambling scandal broke
my father could see it coming

He was such an unusually careful observer of people
he could see deep into a person’s character

It wasn’t because he was in their space
He was really good about that
He always gave people a tremendous amount of space
He gave people all the space they needed to be who they were
To actualize who they were
Maybe that’s how he could really see into them
Maybe that’s how he could see who you really were

So, I just heard this story:

The PISTONS were in New York, playing the KNICKERBOCKERS
It was half-way through the fourth quarter
We were up ten points on the KNICKS
and Rasheed Wallace had two fouls

My father turned to Joe Dumars and said:
“We’ve gotta file a protest against the refs.”

Joe D was shocked: “We’re up ten Mr. D. We’re winning this game.”

But my dad was firm: “I can see what’s going to happen. We gotta file a protest Joe.”

So Joe called the league
and their reaction was the same:
“You’re filing a protest!?! That’s crazy! You guys are winning this game!?!”

Joe D replied:

That’s what Mr. D wants.

So they filed the protest.

In the next few minutes, a certain referee
(one who was ultimately named in the gambling scandal)
called four quick fouls on Rasheed Wallace,
ejecting Sheed from the game.

And the PISTONS went on to lose to the KNICKS.

After the game, my father called then NBA Commissioner David Stern
and told him about his protest.

David said something like: “Well, you know Bill, these protests after a game is over, they’re pretty difficult.”

My father answered: “M-hm. That’s why I filed it when we were up ten.”

David: “So you don’t like the refs, Bill!?! Is that what you’re saying? You think they’re bad refs? You think they’re bad at their jobs.”

My father: “No, David, listen to me: it’s not that they’re bad refs, David. They are bad people. You’ve got bad people, David.”

When my friend told this story the other night,
it gave me a chill
Because I knew instantly that it was true
I knew my father had this ability
He could see who people really were inside.