Issue 20: It’s Not Easy Being an NBA Official

At some point in your life, you’ve likely heard a fan complaining about an official. “We would have won if not for the refs!” “The refs gave them the game!” “I could do better than that official!”

First of all, no you cannot. I officiated intramural and middle school basketball, football, and volleyball games in college and had to put up with a tremendous amount of nonsense even then. And that was with small crowds largely consisting of fraternity bros and parents, respectively (usually, the two did not intermingle).

Secondly, there are SO many things going on during a sporting event that you don’t see. If you only follow the ball, you miss about 85 percent of the action. You could also reasonably call a foul on every single possession. But that does not make for an entertaining basketball game, so discretion is key.

Finally, refs have to worry about a lot of things you wouldn’t expect. That’s the subject of today’s email. Officials probably never thought they had to deal with all of this.

Carlos Boozer Punches Danny Crawford in the Groin

Carlos Boozer seems like a delightful human being. He’s one of just 11 major basketball players from Alaska, routinely yelled at players to “GRAB IT!” in reference to rebounds, and he once spray-painted hair on his head so he didn’t look bald.

He’s also the star of one of my favorite ESPN commercials, in which he jumps out of a moving bus because his takeout food didn’t come with any hot sauce.

But for the purposes of this video, you just need to know that Carlos Boozer was a very passionate player. One time, that came back to bite him in the nether regions, as he celebrated an and-one by pumping his fist…directly into official Danny Crawford’s groin. OUCH.

Luckily, Crawford laughs it off and we all breathe a sigh of relief. Boozer also shows compassion for his fellow man, yelling, “YOU ALRIGHT?!” after realizing what he had just done. I appreciate the fan in red behind Boozer expressing alarm, too.

Dick Bavetta Races Charles Barkley–I9hEBE

Dick Bavetta officiated 2,635 games throughout his career, so naturally, he had many memorable moments.

He officiated a game by himself in the 1980s after his officiating partner broke his leg during the contest. In that same game, he ejected both Julius Erving and Larry Bird when they began strangling each other.

Bavetta was one of the officials during Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, better known as Michael Jordan’s last game as a Chicago Bull.

Bavetta also ejected all ten players on the court in a 2006 game between the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks, after a brawl broke out on the floor. Spectacular!

Yet it’s a random event from the 2007 All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas that may perhaps be Bavetta’s greatest moment.

The then 66-year-old official raced against NBA legend Charles Barkley, putting on a spectacle to raise $75,000 for the Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club of America.

Despite running five to ten miles per day and making a valiant diving effort at the finish line, Bavetta lost the race. He suffered an abrasion on his right knee and probably the derision of fans everywhere for losing to Barkley. But it was all for a good cause, and that’s the most important thing.

Courtney Kirkland Blocks a Free Throw

NBA officials are fairly integral parts of free throws. They make sure everyone is lined up properly, no one commits a violation, and they bounce the ball to the shooter.

What officials don’t usually do, though, is scamper into the middle of the lane to try and block the free throw. Unless you’re Courtney Kirkland, who took to the sky to prevent Kris Humphries from taking his shot.

The reason for Kirkland’s unusual move? Raptors guard Jose Calderon was trying to substitute into the game, and if Humphries shot, the substitution would have to wait.

We may never know why Kirkland didn’t simply blow his whistle and wave his arms like just about every official does in that situation. Maybe he wanted to stand out.

In that case, bravo, Mr. Kirkland. Bravo.

Ron Garretson to Rasheed Wallace: “Whack! Get Out.”

A technical foul is an official’s way of trying to control a situation before it gets too out of hand. They’ll award a player a technical for offensive language, demonstrable gestures, or myriad other reasons.

In all my years of officiating sports, I only remember dishing out two technical fouls. One was to a fraternity that kept having its bench walk onto the court (and 38 guys on the floor is too many).

The other was to a guy who called me an offensive name synonymous with “wimp,” but turned away as he said it. I remember laughing as I gave him the technical foul because of the irony of the situation — he was suggesting I was afraid of calling a foul against the other team but couldn’t say it to my face.

In the case of this technical, though, official Ron Garretson wasn’t laughing one bit.

This clip sets the groundwork for Rasheed Wallace getting his second tech, thus removing him from the game. But the fun really starts around the 57-second mark.

Wallace, who received 317 technical fouls during his career, had already gotten one in this game against the Lakers. He was on thin ice, for sure, but this is some of the thinnest ice we’ve ever seen.

Garretson gives Wallace a technical simply for staring at him. “Whack! Get out.” Wallace’s teammate, Steve Smith, comes over to plead on behalf of Wallace. And Garretson turns this great moment into a phenomenal one with his response.

“Get away from me, Steve.”

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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