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Friday, June 14, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Are Refs Fair As They Wanna Be? -- NBA Officials Carry Own `Jordan Rules,' Some Foes Contend

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Michael Jordan has the stats, the reputation and clutch big-game performances to deserve the acclaim as the greatest basketball player ever.

Along with that, or perhaps because of that, the Chicago Bull guard also is the unwitting poster child for the NBA's greatest hypocrisy.

The star of the game, saint of the media, also is the sanctimony of the officials. The unspoken theory goes, if Jordan loses the ball, he must have been fouled. If he steals it, it must have been clean.

"I didn't say I agreed with it, I said I understood it," Sonic Coach George Karl said yesterday. "The best way is that there wouldn't be hypocrisy or wouldn't be a double standard. But we all know there is a referee stance that's different."

Which is why Game 4 of the NBA Finals Wednesday was so unusual, apart from the Sonics' rout of the Bulls. Jordan was treated as almost an equal to the others on the floor, given a flagrant foul call and a technical foul.

With just under a minute left in the third period and the Bulls trailing 78-63, Jordan roughed up David Wingate as he approached the hoop, sending Wingate precariously on his back.

Jordan said, however, it wasn't flagrant; he also said referee Joey Crawford admitted as much to him.

"He said maybe he made a mistake," Jordan said. "That's a critical point in the game."

Jordan added, "I didn't go through him (Wingate), I went around his body to get to the ball. But it (the call) gave them the ball and the free throws to go with it. That's tough to swallow."

Jordan vehemently protested with Crawford, notorious for being quick-tempered, a quick whistle. Earlier, in the first quarter, Jordan also shot back at referee Mike Mathis, who called him for an offensive foul he didn't feel he committed.

He completed the tantrum troika by complaining hard to referee Billy Oakes after his second-quarter technical.

Jordan also was seen pointing and jawing hard with the referees as he left the court at halftime. He said he has the right to protest because "I'm the team captain; as long as you're not derogatory toward them or embarrass them."

Or as long as he's Michael Jordan.

"If he's not Michael Jordan, I think he would have been thrown out of the basketball game," Karl said. "(But) I have no qualms giving that hypocrisy respect. Michael has earned it.

"Detlef (Schrempf) gets a technical for getting in Billy Oakes' face and Michael practically bites Oakes' face off after his technical," Karl added.

Sonic forward Shawn Kemp, a quality player of lesser stature than Jordan, has been the victim of foul trouble throughout the playoffs. He said he recognizes the situation for what it is.

"In Game 2 in Chicago, I saw Michael approach an official at halftime. It's not the first time," Kemp said.

"They're going to approach officials to try to get them on their side. There's no secret to that."

"I think the officials have been against us the whole playoffs," added Kemp, who has nearly twice as many fouls as Jordan in four games. "I tell my guys, `Don't worry about the officials, just play. If you complain about it, they're going to kick our butts.' "

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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