I've been saying for years that officiating in the NBA is a little suspect. I shouted vindication from the mountaintop when referee Tim Donaghy was found to be entangled in a betting scandal. Now I would never report something without substantiation of course, but what happens when a reporter knows they heard something and can't prove it. This exact situation happened to Associated Press reporter Jon Krawczynski last year.
Krawczynski was covering the Minnesota Timberwolves (I can't think of a worse basketball assignment) when he overheard referee Bill Spooner promise Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis
a makeup call. He tweeted it.
"Ref Bill Spooner told Rambis he'd 'get it back' after a bad call. Then he made an even worse call on Rockets. That's NBA officiating folks."
The problem was it became a case of he said, he said. Spooner filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming he made no such promise to Rambis.
This is a classic case where the reporter would've been saved had he only followed my cardinal rule: record everything.
Obviously you will have a hard time getting some subjects to agree to this, but most people will understand it is to their advantage to be recorded. You can certainly get more words down on a recording faster than you can in a reporter's notebook. This in turn leads to a much smaller chance of misquoting someone or writing a quote down in the wrong context.
This reminds me a bit of the Boy Scout rule. Always be prepared. Keep the mic hot at all times because you never know what might come up. It occurs to me you might have trouble getting an audio recorder in to the arena because of the broadcasting rules set up by sports leagues, but at the same time in this case he would only be recorded what was within earshot.
As a journalist, it's important to bring ammunition to back up your point.