SALT LAKE CITY — If you think you know what a travel looks like in the NBA, you might be wrong.
And, unlike the mum’s-the-word-on-controversial-calls NFL, the NBA isn’t afraid to let you know that.
Thousands of basketball fans who watched a clip of Wizards star Bradley Beal taking several steps more than allowed while driving toward the basket against the Detroit Pistons were certain refs had missed a blatant travel Monday night.
Complex Sports sarcastically tweeted out a video of the play, showing that Beal rolled around a screen at the top of the key, picked up his dribble just inside of the free-throw line and then took five steps before passing the ball.
“Cancel the refs,” @ComplexSports wrote on its tweet, which had been viewed more than three million times as of Tuesday afternoon.
For the record, the NBA won’t be canceling its refs. The league also won’t agree that the travel you thought you saw — swore you saw after Beal rushed for a first down — was actually a travel even though the Wizards star clearly took five steps without dribbling before his pass.
This is the explanation given by @OfficialNBARefs, which regularly weighs in with “encouraging communication, dialogue and transparency with NBA fans, while offering expertise from our elite group,” per its bio.
“The offensive player gathers with his right foot on the ground. He then takes two legal steps, before losing control of the ball. After regaining possession, a player is allowed to regain his pivot foot and pass or shoot prior to that foot returning to the ground. This is legal.”
The reaction, not surprisingly, included hundreds of tweets and memes that disagreed with its explanation.
“Do you guys also work as tax lawyers?” an NBA fan asked.
“Is this a parody account?” another fan mused.
After two hours of being panned on social media, the NBA referees responded again — with humor and the official rulebook.
“Well that escalated quickly! When we talk about ‘losing control,’ we're talking about a ‘fumble,’” @OfficialNBARefs tweeted. “Below is the ‘fumble’ rule. It is legal for a player to ‘fumble’ (even without a defender touching the ball) then re-establish possession and his pivot foot.”
Exhibit A: Section XVII — Fumble
A player who is holding the ball and fumbles it out of his control may recover the ball. If his pivot foot moves to recover the ball, he must then pass or shoot the ball. If he fumbles and recovers it without moving his pivot foot and before the ball touches the floor, he retains his status before the fumble.
That only brought about another wave of jokes that ranged from “James Harden’s gonna love this” to people telling the NBA refs to just admit they were wrong and performing “mental gymnastics” because Beal appeared to have blatantly traveled. One fan pointed out the rule that a player cannot be the first to touch the ball if he drops the ball while in the air.
Other fans pointed out that a player could simply pretend to fumble the ball all the way down the court.
A third tweet from @OfficialNBA refs proved that the league didn’t believe it fumbled the call or the explanation.
“Fumble = legal, and no travel. No fumble = travel. It's understandable for people to think that the offensive player doesn't lose control, and therefore travels. But the officials on the floor deemed it a fumble, and therefore legal. This is what makes this job so difficult.”
And Beal’s response?
“Look clean to me,” he humorously tweeted.
Though many aren't buying what the NBA is selling on this particular point, at least the league is open to a dialogue. That's all the New Orleans Saints wanted after a clearly missed pass interference call contributed to them missing out on the Super Bowl.
This referee topic is also one of the refreshing things about the new Alliance of American Football, which debuted this past weekend along with its forward-thinking SkyJudge. The SkyJudge is simply an additional referee who is situated in a suite and can overrule bad or missed calls.
The Ringer's Rodger Sherman wrote his approval of the innovative referee experiment, especially in light of the NFC championship controversy.
"Hopefully, everybody is just as enthusiastic as I am about the officiating system introduced by the newly formed Alliance of American Football.9 comments on this story
"The league has instituted a pair of replay-focused moves that I love. One is the addition of an extra official whose job is to review each play for any egregiously incorrect or missed calls — someone who could’ve hypothetically overturned the blatant missed pass interference penalty during the fourth quarter of the Saints-Rams NFC championship game. The AAF has decided to name this official the SkyJudge, which I believe is also the name of an omnipotent thunder deity from the Paleolithic era.
"The second move is that the AAF has made our relationship with the SkyJudge surprisingly direct. We don’t just sacrifice our livestock to the SkyJudge and wait to see whether our prayers are answered; we can actually see and hear the SkyJudge come to decisions."
That system played out for the first score in AAF history.
SkyJudge has yet to rule on Beal's sneaky fumble move.