NBA Coach Says Sports Bettors Threatened His Family


Posted on: March 23, 2024, 12:44h. 

Last updated on: March 23, 2024, 12:44h.

J.B. Bickerstaff, the NBA coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, says the expansion of legal sports gambling across the United States has presented problems for not only players but also referees, coaches, and team personnel.

J.B. Bickerstaff NBA Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff says sports betting has presented new challenges for NBA coaches, players, and refs. Bickerstaff believes bettors have become a major distraction to the game. (Image: USA Today Sports)

Before his team’s tipoff against the Miami Heat last week, Bickerstaff was asked by a reporter about Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton’s comments saying he feels like a “prop” amidst the heightened sports betting climate.

Bickerstaff said he certainly isn’t immune from the added pressures that sports betting has brought to the game. The Cavs coach in his fourth season in Cleveland relayed an unsettling account of an angered sports bettor last year obtaining his telephone number and levying threats against his family.

They got my telephone number and were sending me crazy messages about where I live and my kids,” the 45-year-old Bickerstaff said. “It is a dangerous game and a fine line that we’re walking for sure.”

Bickerstaff has led the Cavs to one of the more surprising seasons this year, though the team has endured recent struggles in losing six of the previous 10 games. At 43-27, Cleveland has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavs’ struggles of late have lengthened their title odds, with DraftKings currently putting Cleveland at 45/1 to win the NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics have the shortest odds at 2/1.

Sports Betting Foul

Bickerstaff says the individual who sent the threatening texts was located by law enforcement after he reported it to the NBA. The coach explained that the person was not charged with any crime.

The Cavs coach says he’s also faced heckling during games from bettors seeking to win an over/under or spread points bet.

The number of times I’m standing up there [on the sideline] and we have a 10-point lead and the spread is 11 and people are yelling at me to leave the guys in so that we can cover… it’s ridiculous,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no doubt about it that it’s crossed the line.”

The NBA did not fine Bickerstaff for expressing his opinions on sports betting.

The league handed Minnesota center Rudy Gobert a $100,000 penalty earlier this month after he made a money sign by rubbing his thumbs over the tips of his index and middle fingers. The gesture made towards the referee insinuated that the game was fixed.

Gambling a ‘Distraction’

Bickerstaff says the NBA’s embrace of sports betting might be good for the league because of higher television ratings, but it’s a “distraction” for players, refs, and personnel.

In Cleveland’s instance, fans can bet on the game from their seats inside Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, as Ohio is home to online sports betting. The Cavs arena also has an on-site retail Caesars Sportsbook.

“It brings added pressure. It brings a distraction to the game that can be difficult for players, coaches, referees, and everybody that’s involved. And I think that we really have to be careful with how close we let it get to the game and the security of the people who are involved in it,” the coach concluded.

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