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Legendary NBA Ref To Call it Quits

Joey Crawford evokes strong emotions in basketball fans.
Joey Crawford was suspended in 2007 after San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan said he challenged him to a fight.
Joey Crawford was suspended in 2007 after San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan said he challenged him to a fight.

Joey Crawford, one of the longest-serving referees in NBA history, will retire at the end of the 2016 season after 39 years officiating games.

The 64-year-old, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, made the announcement in an interview with his local newspaper, the Delaware County Daily Times.

“You know what happens? It’s not that you lose your passion,” Crawford said. “I have that. That’s insanity. 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. I don’t want to go out on a low note. I want to be in the NBA Finals, and I don’t want to be reffing just for the sake of reffing.”

Passion is one thing Crawford will surely be remembered for -- sometimes to a fault. He was infamously suspended in 2007 for challenging San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan to a fight after the two exchanged words during a game. 

Other angry and dramatic moments in Crawford’s refereeing career prompted Deadspin to declare that his “seemingly pathological need to make himself a factor in games was so grating that you could make a very sensible case that he’s the worst thing about the NBA.”

The basketball official is also respected for his toughness.

"But while no official is immune to bias, nobody else was as willing to call a controversial or unpopular call against the home team," the same critical Deadspin article noted. "As much as he made himself a pariah, he had no problem making tough calls, even if they got entire arenas booing and spitting venom at him."

Crawford told The New York Times he once broke a finger while giving a player a technical foul -- and he started seeing a sports psychologist soon after.

The mixture of resentment and affection many basketball fans feel for Crawford was evident in the reactions to the news of his retirement on Twitter.

Crawford, who is recovering from knee surgery, plans to resume refereeing on March 1, according to the Delaware County Times.

He has officiated in more playoff games than any active referee in the league -- 313 of them, to date.

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