Joey Crawford always has a way of inserting himself into the story of the NBA -- not exactly the goal for a referee, but he's no ordinary zebra. This time, Crawford is making headlines for announcing plans to retire after the 2015-16 season.
He told his local paper, the Delaware County Daily Times, that he intends to hang up his whistle after 39 years in the NBA.
“I’m done,” he said.
The 64-year-old veteran has been sidelined by knee surgery, but hopes to be back out on the court by March 1. If all goes according to plan, he'll call the playoffs with the aim of officiating yet another NBA Finals. Go out on top, so to speak.
“It’s not that you lose your passion. I have that. That’s insanity," Crawford said. "But it just comes to the point where you say, ‘I don’t want to make a fool out of myself.’ And it’s been so good that I want to go out on a high note."
His words strike the same tone as veteran players talking about retirement.
For some perspective, Crawford has worked in the NBA almost twice as long as another legend calling it quits this year -- Kobe Bryant. And he has equally impressive career stats.
Crawford has refereed 50 NBA Finals games (appearing in 29 of the last 30 Finals series) and 313 playoffs games, more than any other active official. He received the National Association of Sports Officials' Golden Whistle Award -- the highest honor in the profession -- in 2014.
But his career hasn't been unblemished. In April of 2007, he was suspended for the remainder of the season after an in-game altercation with Tim Duncan. Crawford ejected the Spurs forward for allegedly cursing at hime, while Duncan claimed Crawford threatened to fight him.
The suspension cost Crawford a chance to officiate the Finals that year, halting his streak of consecutive Finals appearances at 21. He admits he regrets the incident to this day, but considers it a learning experience.
Most NBA fans will remember him as strict with his whistle and flamboyant in his delivery of fouls and ejections. It's fair to call him a "hands-on" official whose antics occasionally interrupt games.
For example, he has yelled at scorers tables, almost ejected a mop boy, accidentally pushed players out of bounds and other nonsense. He also famously blocked Kevin Durant's free throw during the 2014 playoffs and told Timofey Mozgov to "shut up" during the 2015 NBA Finals.
You can watch video of these incidents and others in this post compiled by Sports Illustrated.
And while Crawford's wilder moments can irritate fans at the time, they're what many people will miss most about him.
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