NBA referees have one of the toughest jobs in sports. Given the speed of the game and the space in which they are often committed, it's hard to see everything. Making wrong calls is natural and perhaps adds to the human factor that makes the game even more entertaining sometimes.
However, there have been fouls called that would definitely amount to blunders. Here is a list of the top 10 NBA worst calls in the last two decades.
The top 10 NBA worst calls in the last 20 years
#1, 2007, Joey Crawford slaps back-to-back technical on Tim Duncan
On April 15, 2007, Joey Crawford, the NBA referee made strange calls against San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan. In San Antonio's game against the Dallas Mavericks, Crawford slapped technicals against Duncan for laughing at a couple of his foul calls against the Spurs. Duncan was hit with two technicals one after another in the last minutes of the third quarter.
The Duncan-Crawford incident is considered one of the most bizarre ones in NBA history.
#2, 2019, Western Conference semifinals: Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets
In 2019, when the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets met in the Western Conference semifinals, Game 1 ended up being remembered for bad calls.
In the fourth quarter, with nine seconds remaining and the Rockets trailing by three points, James Harden attempted a 3-point shot. Draymond Green, who was defending Harden, clearly fouled him, but there was no foul call called.
With 4.4 seconds remaining, Paul was ejected from the game after he protested a foul call against him. Ejecting a clutch player like Paul was definitely heavy on the Rockets. The Warriors won the series in six games.
#3, 2018, NBA Finals: LeBron James called for blocking fall
LeBron James and Kevin Durant met in the 2018 NBA Finals for the second time in a row. The LeBron-Durant rivalry was at its peak, and it seemed like King’s 51-point game was going to steal Game 1 in the Oracle Arena.
However, apart from J.R. Smith’s blunder, it was the referees who might have cost the Cavs the game. With the Cavs leading 104-102, Durant ran to the basket but hit James right outside the restricted area. Despite declaring that King was outside the restricted area, he was called for the blocking foul, costing them Game 1.
LeBron and the Cavs were eventually swept in the series.
#4, 2010, NBA Finals: Game 7
The 2010 NBA Finals Game 7 between Boston Celtics and LA Lakers is still fresh in the hearts of Celtics fans and perhaps a wound that will not go away anytime soon. After defeating the Lakers in the 2008 Finals, both teams met again for the title.
In Game 7 of the series, Kobe Bryant was having one of the worst performances in his postseason career. On top of that, the Celtics led most of the game. However, the Lakers went to the foul line 21 times in the fourth quarter, and of that, Bryant alone went 15 times. Eventually, the Lakers won the series with Kobe winning the NBA Finals award.
#5, 2006, Morris Peterson foul call
Players could be ejected for showing love to each other seems ridiculous, right? Well, it is not for some NBA referees. In 2006, the New Jersey Nets and Vince Carter were playing in Toronto against the Raptors. The game was close and obviously tense since Carter was playing against his former team.
During the game, Carter playfully slapped Morris Peterson across the face in jest. Peterson understood, and he also smacked on the back of Carter’s head, again, playfully. What did the refs do? They ejected Peterson.
#6, 2012, Foul call for celebration
High-fiving a teammate after drawing a foul could earn a player a technical foul, but that, too, in the playoffs is as bizarre as it can get.
But, of course, it happened in the NBA. In 2012, the LA Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies met in the first round of the playoffs, with the Clippers leading 3-2 in the series.
In the second quarter, Quincy Pondexter fouled Reggie Evans on a transition play. Evans found Blake Griffin pumping him up and high-fived his teammate in excitement. Referee Marc Davis slapped Evans with a technical foul, leaving everyone baffled.
#7, 2005, Eastern Conference finals: Joey Crawford calls foul on Chancey Billups which he committed
Joey Crawford makes it to the list again with one of the most ridiculous calls made by the referees in a game.
In Game 7 of the 2005 Easter Conference finals, Crawford called a foul on Chauncey Billups for pushing Damian Jones out of the bounds. However, upon replay, it's clear that it wasn’t Billups but Crawford who pushed Jones out of bounds.
The Detroit Pistons won the game and the series, but imagine the backlash had they lost the series.
#8, 2010, A foul only Joey Crawford could see
Joey Crawford has made the list too many times, but he has been frequent with his bad calls.
In 2010, the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers met in the first round of the playoffs. Halfway through the second quarter, Crawford called a foul against Marcus Camby for fouling Steve Nash. After the reply, it was clear that Camby was not even near Nash when the foul was called against him.
Eventually, the Suns knocked off the Blazers in the series.
#9, 2006, NBA Finals: Foul call against Dirk Nowitzki for getting elbowed by Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade's performance in the 2006 NBA Finals was one of the greatest in NBA history. The Heat led the series 3-2, but the Mavs, led by Dirk Nowitzki, were putting up a good fight in Game 6. However, late in the fourth quarter, Nowitzki was called for a blocking foul. The replay showed that it was Wade who had elbowed Dirk on the play.
Eventually, the Heat won the series in six games and D-Wade was named the Finals MVP.
#10, 2019, Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors
In January 2019, the Houston Rockets and Warriors met in a nationally televised game.
With the game tied at 132-132 in overtime, while Kevin Durant was driving to the basket, the ball was knocked off his hands. Later, while fighting for the ball with P.J. Tucker, Durant took at least three steps out of the bounds to send the ball inside. The Warriors took possession, and Stephen Curry made a clutch shot. With KD so much out of bounds that even fans far away could see it, the referees easily missed the call.
Despite the horrendous call, Harden made a clutch shot at the end of OT to win the game for the Rockets.