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All the controversies surrounding NBA referee Scott Foster: Why do fans call him ‘The Extender’?




The NBA still seems to regard Scott Foster as one of their best referees, even though in 2007, Foster allegedly received 134 phone calls from disgraced referee Tim Donaghy between October 2006 and April 2007 and faced no consequences despite the accusations.

Scott Foster’s main player adversaries

As his career in the NBA progressed, he began to attract more attention for questionable on-court decisions, mainly due to his contentious relationship with Chris Paul. In the 20 playoff Games that CP3 has played with Foster officiating, Paul’s team has won only three and lost 17. Other players like James Harden and Paul Pierce have also publicly criticized Foster’s attitude.

It’s concerning that Foster continues to officiate some of the NBA’s most important postseason games despite being considered one of the worst NBA referees.

The “Extender” beginnings and Tim Donaghy speculations

Scott Foster was born in April 1967 in Silver Spring, Maryland. He refereed high school basketball for 6 years before moving on to college basketball for 2 years in the CBA and eventually entering the NBA in 1994.

Reggie Miller discusses an action with Tim Donaghy in November 2001, years before he was convicted.
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Reggie Miller discusses an action with Tim Donaghy in November 2001, years before he was convicted.ANTHONY BOLANTEREUTERS

Foster remained relatively unknown early in his career but gained attention when fellow referee Tim Donaghy came under investigation for severe suspicions in 2007. Donaghy was investigated for suspicion of match-fixing and admitted to gambling on games he was refereeing. Foster was linked to this incident because he received numerous phone calls from Donaghy. Donaghy admitted to reluctantly calling Foster. Notably, Donaghy didn’t call any other official more than 13 times, while he called Foster 134 times, often before and after games Donaghy was officiating. Despite this, Foster was not convicted of anything, as both claimed they had a close relationship. On the other hand, Donaghy was charged with conspiracy and served 11 months in prison.

There have been speculations regarding the potential involvement of other referees, but nothing substantial. As Gilbert Arenas put it, “The biggest mistake the feds made was letting David Stern know there might be other refs that we’re looking into.”

Chris Paul controversy

The longtime NBA referee has remained at the center of controversy for years, particularly regarding his tumultuous relationship with star point guard Chris Paul.

Chris Paul’s animosity toward Foster began early in his career. Entering the NBA in 2005 with the New Orleans Hornets, Paul’s first encounter with Foster came during a blowout loss. This matchup marked the beginning of a long-standing feud, which has seen several notable incidents.

Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets celebrates after defeating the Houston Rockets 95-99 at the New Orleans Arena on January 2, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets celebrates after defeating the Houston Rockets 95-99 at the New Orleans Arena on January 2, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Chris GraythenAFP

In 2008, during Paul’s third season, he led the Hornets to a second-round clash against the San Antonio Spurs. Foster officiated game 7 of this series, with the Hornets ultimately losing 91-82. Although no egregious calls were made, Paul’s frustration with Foster grew. The tension escalated when Paul joined the Houston Rockets. In a regular-season game in 2018, Paul publicly criticized Foster, stating, “I got a tech tonight, Scott Foster at his finest. Never fails.” The situation worsened during the Western Conference Finals, where Foster officiated Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors. Controversial missed calls contributed to the Rockets’ loss, fueling further allegations of biased officiating.

The NBA’s lack of action against referee Foster has raised questions about the league’s motives. Foster officiated multiple critical Games, including Game 7s, and there’s a pattern of losses for certain teams. This has led to suspicions about his impartiality, especially given his reputation as the league’s worst referee.

Fans and media have noted Foster’s frequent assignments to pivotal Game 6s and 7s, often in series that could generate more revenue for the league if extended. This has led to accusations that Foster acts as a “puppet” for the NBA, influencing game outcomes to maximize financial gain. That’s why he was nicknamed “Agent 48″ and “The Extender,” because teams trailing in a playoff series have often won games he has officiated, thus lengthening the series.

Despite contentious calls and public criticism, Foster has continued officiating high-stakes games without facing significant repercussions from the NBA.

Harden, Pierce, and Curry make a case

Beyond Chris Paul, other players have also voiced their grievances. James Harden called Foster “rude and arrogant,” Paul Pierce criticized his quickness in calling technical fouls. Despite this widespread discontent, Foster has been a fixture in crucial playoff games, leading to speculation about the NBA’s intentions.

Foster’s officiating in games involving high-profile teams and players has drawn criticism for perceived biases and missed calls. Instances such as the 2016 NBA Finals, where Foster fouled out Stephen Curry, extending the series to a Game 7, only fuel the fire.

Even when suspicions peak, like during the 2022 Eastern Conference semi-finals, Foster’s removal from a game at the last minute seems to quell public concern more than address underlying issues. Yet, the question remains: why is a referee consistently voted the worst by players given such critical responsibilities?