8 instances where an NBA game was re-played (at least in part)

I New York Knicks in the past few hours have sent a challenge to the NBA for the ending of the game against the Houston Rockets. With the score tied, a foul was whistled at the buzzer on a three-point shot by Jalen Brunson, sending Aaron Holiday to the line that handed the win to the Texans.. Immediately after the game it was the NBA referees themselves who retraced their steps and admitted that that foul should not have been whistled: the game would then end 103-103 and be decided in overtime.

Usually such contentions do not find acceptance from the league, but this time might be different given the importance of the error and the fact that it was actually certified. In NBA history, it has happened only 6 times that a protest was upheld and the game, or rather part of it, was replayed.

November 28, 1952, Milwaukee Hawks vs. Philadelphia Warriors.

Milwaukee’s OT win was cancelled by the NBA because of an error by the Hawks in substitutions once they were left with only 4 available players due to fouls. It was the first protest accepted by the NBA and the contest was replayed entirely on a neutral court, in Pittsburg, over 3 months later. On March 6, 1953, however, it was the Philadelphia Warriors who triumphed, again in overtime.

November 6, 1969, Atlanta Hawks vs. Chicago Bulls.

Hawks again starring, this time after moving to Atlanta. The Bulls complained to the NBA about the failure to validate a tap-in at the buzzer that would have ended the fourth quarter tied. In the absence of instant replay, the referees ruled the basket overtime, but erred. The game was restarted at 124-124 with only one second to play over 3 months later, on February 8, 1970. Of course, the Hawks did not score, but still won the game in overtime 142-137.

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December 3, 1971, Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Buffalo Braves.

The Cleveland Cavaliers appealed to the NBA after losing the game 91-90, for not being able to use a final timeout with 4 seconds to play. The NBA ruled that the final 4 seconds should be replayed, with the Cavs in possession of the ball for a potential victory. The re-match was played less than 3 weeks later, but Cleveland’s attempt was a wash: the Cavaliers did not score and the game ended with the “original” score: 91-90 for Buffalo.

Nov. 14, 1973, Indiana Pacers vs. San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs complained to the NBA about a 10-second violation (the ancestor of the 8-second violation) whistled in the last minute of the game. The error in the referee call was verified and the game was played just over 2 weeks later starting in the last 30 seconds of the fourth quarter. San Antonio was ahead 83-81, but unlike the “original game,” in which the Spurs eventually lost 83-84, the game here went into overtime and it was the Texans who prevailed over Indiana 95-90.

January 7, 1976, New York Nets vs. Virginia Squires.

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Willie Wise

New York protested that Virginia’s Willie Wise was let back on the court after he did not participate in a two-ball complaining of an injury. The player was “only” 1.96m tall and it is easy to guess that Virginia took advantage of this to field someone taller. There were still over 7′ to play in the third quarter, but the NBA still decided to have most of the second half re-played. The “second game” was played on Jan. 26, and Wise was not allowed to participate. In the end, as originally, it was still Virginia that won: 107-100 instead of 112-89.

November 8, 1978, New Jersey Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers.

This one has some comedy in it: referee Richie Powers whistled 3 technical fouls on Nets coach Kevin Loughery instead of ejecting him after the second one. Although the Sixers won that game, the NBA decided that it should be replayed starting 5:50 into the third quarter, with Philadelphia at +3. Fortunately, even in the second game it was the 76ers who won 123-117.

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November 30, 1982, Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs.

With 3 seconds to play and San Antonio at +2, the Spurs were whistled for a violation on a fake by Norm Nixon while shooting a free. Eventually the Lakers were able to tie it and win it in OT, but the NBA ruled that the game would have to be replayed with 3 seconds on the clock and Nixon in the lunette for the second free throw. The re-match was even set in April, over 5 months later, and this time it was the Spurs who prevailed in regulation: Nixon missed the free and the contest ended 117-114.

Dec. 19, 2007, Miami Heat vs. Atlanta Hawks

nba shaq

Last case, which is the most recent. Statisticians at Atlanta’s Philips Arena reported 6 fouls to Shaquille O’Neal, ousting him from the game despite actually committing only 5 with 59.1 seconds to play in overtime and the Hawks at +3. The NBA decided that the Finals would be re-played on March 8, 2008: a date when Shaq was no longer even part of the Heat, having been traded to Phoenix about a month earlier. The result did not change: instead of 117-111, Atlanta won 114-111.

Francesco Manzi
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