National Basketball Association
Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff says he received threats from gamblers, feels sports betting 'gone too far'
National Basketball Association

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff says he received threats from gamblers, feels sports betting 'gone too far'

Published Mar. 20, 2024 10:30 p.m. ET

Cleveland Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff revealed he received threats from gamblers last season and reported it to the NBA.

While being asked Wednesday night about sports gambling following comments made by Indiana All-Star Tyrese Haliburton, who said he sometimes feels like a "prop," Bickerstaff said gamblers contacted him.

"They got my telephone number and were sending me crazy messages about where I live and my kids and all that stuff," Bickerstaff said before the Cavs hosted the Miami Heat. "So it is a dangerous game and a fine line that we're walking for sure."

Bickerstaff said he told security and that the gambler was located.


"No charges," Bickerstaff said. "But they found him."

With sports gambling growing in the U.S., Bickerstaff, who is in his fourth full season with the Cavaliers, said his job has become more challenging.

"It brings added pressure," he said. "It brings a distraction to the game that can be difficult for players, coaches, referees, everybody that's involved in it. 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.

"Because again, it does carry a weight. A lot of times the people who are gambling like this money pays their light bill or pay their rent, and then the emotions that come from that. So I do think we're walking a very fine line and we have to be extremely careful in protecting everybody who's involved."

Because fans can bet on their phones in the arena — the Cavs have a sportsbook inside Rocket Mortage FieldHouse — Bickerstaff said the line between gambling and the game has never been closer.

"There's no doubt about it that it's crossed the line," he said. "The amount of times where I'm standing up there and we may 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 the spread, it's ridiculous.

"But again, I understand the business side of it and the nature of the business of it. But I mean, it is something that I believe has gone too far."

Following a recent game in Cleveland, Minnesota center Rudy Gobert said he felt gambling is "hurting our game."

Gobert made the comments after making a "money" gesture toward official Scott Foster, implying gambling was influencing the way the game was being called. He was fined $100,000, the maximum that the NBA could give under terms of the collective bargaining agreement that went into place last year.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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