Pulling Double Duty in a Bizarre NBA Game
PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 8, 1978) – There’s an old axiom that sometimes the box score, regardless of the sport, doesn’t always tell the story.
Forty years ago today, the box score of a game between the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers told a story, and a rather confusing one at that.
Check out this link, and see if you pick up on something pretty odd, and then continue reading below:
Yes, Eric Money, Harvey Catchings and Ralph Simpson played for both teams in this game, which went into the books as a 123-117 victory for Philadelphia.
“I remember looking down at the box score the next day and seeing my name for both Philadelphia and New Jersey,” said Catchings. “It was kind of weird, to say the least.”
“I’ve been in a lot of strange games,” Nets coach Kevin Loughery told the New York Daily News years later, “but that was obviously the most bizarre.”
So, what the hell happened?
On Nov. 8, 1978, the 76ers were leading the Nets 84-81 when things went haywire. Referee Richie Powers assessed a technical foul on New Jersey’s Bernard King who had charged the other official, Roger McCann, after he’d been called for a charge. It was his second of the game which forced his ejection.
This incensed Loughery, who had also been given a technical earlier in the game, and when Powers T’d him up, he was done for the night, too. Because neither he or King would leave the court in a timely manner, Powers nailed each with a third technical.
“Bedlam," recalled 76ers forward Steve Mix, who had drawn the initial offensive foul on King. “It was total bedlam."
Phil Jackson, then a player/assistant coach for the Nets, assumed the head coaching role for the rest of the night and the 76ers went on to a 137-133 double-overtime victory. However, the Nets protested the outcome, arguing that the third technicals assessed to King and Loughery were illegal because once a second technical is called, the player or coach is out of the game and not eligible for a third technical.
NBA commissioner Larry O’Brien agreed, and made the decision to take Philadelphia’s 137-133 victory off the books and have the game replayed from the 5:50 mark of the third quarter when all the trouble started and the 76ers up 84-81. The resumption happened on March 23, 1979, when the teams were scheduled to meet that night at the Spectrum.
In addition, O'Brien suspended Powers for five games without pay for “failure to comply with league procedure.”
Here’s where it gets really weird, at least in relation to the final book keeping. In between, on Feb. 7, 1979, the 76ers and Nets consummated a trade that sent Money and Al Skinner from New Jersey to Philadelphia in exchange for Catchings and Simpson.
Thus, when the original game was picked up, those four players were on their new teams, and Money, Simpson and Catchings each appeared in the official box score for both teams.
Money scored 23 points for the Nets, and then four points for the 76ers; Simpson did not score for New Jersey, but he had eight points for Philadelphia; and Catchings had the exact opposite line, eight points for the Nets, zero for the 76ers.
Had the protest not happened, Money would have had a 37-point night, but 14 of those points were wiped out. “It wasn’t like I didn’t score them,” Money said. “I scored them, they just didn’t allow them.”
In the regularly-scheduled game on March 23, the 76ers won that one, too, 110-98. Money had 15 points and Skinner got into this game, though he did not score. For the Nets, Sampson and Catchings scored four points each. For good measure, Loughery incurred a technical foul in this game, too.
“It’s funny,” Loughery told the Newark Star-Ledger a few years ago, “I’ve got this little book that someone gave me recently called the ‘50 Sweetest Things About Basketball’ or something weird like that, and that game is in there. The odd thing is, I always thought Richie was the outstanding official of his time. But he basically would make up his own rules at times, too. He could bend them a little bit, anyway.”
SOURCES: Newark Star-Ledger; Los Angeles Times; New York Daily News.