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If the man at the podium at today's late-morning news conference looked like a man trying to save his sport, that's because he was.

Whether NBA commissioner David Stern was able to pull that off is yet to be determined. The usually smooth and occasionally smug Stern was sufficiently contrite and yes, humble, as he had to be.

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Die-hard NBA fans will continue to come to games, no matter how dire the inferences that could be drawn from revelations that referee Tim Donaghy is being investigated by federal officials for gambling on games, including some that he worked over the past two seasons. But Stern's job today was to reassure the larger public that professional basketball is on the up and up and that he was and is doing everything he can to make sure it stays that way.

"Mr. Donaghy is the only referee alleged to have bet on NBA games and disclosed confidential information to others," Stern said. "I'll say it again, I understand this is an isolated case."

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Stern said, contrary to recent media reports, the league did not know about the FBI's investigation or of allegations involving Donaghy until after the Finals were over. The commissioner said the FBI contacted the league on June 20, and the two sides met the next day. Donaghy resigned July 9, though Stern said the NBA would have fired him, but was asked not to by the FBI for fear of hurting the investigation.

The ripples from the NBA's crisis are already being felt. Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford told a media gathering in North Carolina that the league has conducted background checks on officials in three sports.

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