Suspended in ’75 by the ABA’s Spirits Of St. Louis for “activities detrimental to the best interests of professional basketball”, G/F Joe Caldwell repeated his earlier claims the 1969 NBA playoffs were fixed when chatting with the New York Post’s Marc Berman. Of the recent Tim Donaghy allegations, Caldwell declares “the NBA is like any conglomerate. They’ll do anything they can do to make money. Why is it so hard for people to understand?”
Caldwell mentioned it in his book, “Banned from Basketball” – the incident in the tunnel of the Alexander Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Georgia Tech before Game 1 of the 1969 semifinals between the Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks. While talking to his coach, ex-Knicks great Richie Guerin, Caldwell claims he overheard thencommissioner Walter Kennedy tell veteran referee Mendy Rudolph that the NBA can’t have its Finals in a small arena like in Atlanta.
“We heard a voice, looked up and there’s the commissioner saying, ‘This is the NBA. We can’t have our Finals here,’ ” Caldwell said. “There’s 7,000 people here. They were trying to eliminate us. We were the best team in the NBA.”
The Lakers swept them, 4-0. The Hawks were flagged for 34 fouls in Game 1. In the final game, Jerry West went to the line 21 times, 57 times for the series Caldwell says Guerin went nuts on Kennedy in that breezeway after hearing his remark and was later fined.
“Richie laid into him,” Caldwell said. “He said, “What kind of crap is that.’
“I always said I’d never let the story die, and it died.”
Caldwell began telling the story after he was banned in the mid-1970’s. As the Player’s Association president, he was accused of advising Marvin
Barnes to skip out on his team, which led to his expulsion. However, he believes he was banned because, entering the NBA/ABA merger, he refused the league’s request to give up the pension he negotiated in his contract. But Caldwell feels Donaghy is telling the truth and feels David Stern is no different from Kennedy.
“Stern’s law firm used to represent Kennedy,” Caldwell said. “It’s part of the game. That element will always be there.”