Disgraced Ex-NBA Ref Tim Donaghy Makes Return to Officiating in Pro Wrestling

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Former NBA ref Tim Donaghy on the floor during a game

Tim Donaghy is set to make his return to officiating.

Though he remains persona non grata anywhere near the National Basketball Association, Donaghy has agreed to appear as a referee for the Major League Wrestling promotion.

“Pro wrestling is entertainment, and I always joked the NBA was a form of entertainment and I compared it a little bit to pro wrestling behind the scenes,” says Donaghy, who will be donning the striped official’s jersey for the first time since 2007. “When I was growing up, I always enjoyed pro wrestling, guys like Hulk Hogan and Ivan Putski. I thought it would be fun to get involved and see where it goes.”

Donaghy will forever be infamous as a sports official. In July 2008, he was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison due to his involvement in a gambling scandal while serving as an NBA official. Donaghy pleaded guilty to two federal charges related to gambling in August 2007 and was sentenced a year later to 15 months in prison.

Unlike pro basketball, crooked referees have far more of a celebrated history in the pro wrestling realm.

The famed Hebner twins storyline, featuring evil twin Earl Hebner, played a major role in Andre The Giant dethroning Hulk Hogan for the WWF title in 1988. Longtime WCW referee Nick Patrick is best known for his run as the New World Order’s own personal referee, and there was also a memorable angle in ECW where whistleblowing referee Bill Alfonso ultimately abused his powers when calling matches.

The creative push for Donaghy to appear in the squared circle is the idea of MLW COO Jared St. Laurent. MLW’s tapings are currently underway, set for an early November return on the Fubo Sports Network, beIN Sports and on-demand through DAZN. The current plan, Sports Illustrated has learned, is to introduce Donaghy in a storyline that sees him serve as the personal referee for Richard Holliday’s upcoming slate of matches.

Holliday is one of MLW’s emerging stars, and the added exposure has the potential to significantly increase his position within the company. For Donaghy, whose name has recently resurfaced due to the Whistleblower podcast series, the appearance in MLW—with the potential for more depending on the response—offers a chance for success in a new field that still offers some connective tissue to his old line of work.

“If there is a good response, who knows where it can go from here,” Donaghy says. “I’m willing to do whatever I can to make the show entertaining and fun for everyone watching, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.