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‘There will never be another Joey Crawford’

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LeBron James considers himself “a historian of the game,” and takes pride not just in dominating his own era of NBA basketball but in schooling himself about who and what has come before.

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Just a few days ago, for example, James spent an off-night in Chicago watching a 1997 playoff game between Utah and Houston on NBA TV, eager to understand the how’s and why’s of John Stockton’s 3-pointer that sent the Jazz to their first NBA Finals.


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So the impact of newly retired NBA referee Joey Crawford’s 39-year career wasn’t lost on the Cleveland Cavaliers Jerseys star.

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“To see him reffing Finals games in the early ’90s and then have him ref some of my Finals games in 2011, 2012 — his tenure and what he was able to accomplish over that long period of time — I think is remarkable,” James said of Crawford, who was honored Sunday at halftime of the Bucks-76ers game in his native Philadelphia.

“Joey was a man of his own out there. He didn’t follow nobody. He reffed how he wanted to ref, he had his antics the way he wanted to have his antics. But every coach, every player respected what he brought to the game. Best wishes to him in his retirement for sure.”

GameTime: Joey Crawford Retires

The GameTime crew looks back on the legendary career of NBA referee Joey Crawford following his retirement announcement.

Crawford, 64, announced in the fall that 2015-16 would be his final NBA season. But when his right knee didn’t sufficiently respond to surgery and rehab, it turned out that he had worked his final game without realizing it. Crawford spoke to in March about his career and his future, and the 76ers made plans for Sunday’s ceremony to celebrate Crawford’s work in his hometown, a city not just with rich in its basketball tradition of great players but of great game officials, too.

Some of the NBA’s best-known referees have had Philadelphia roots, including Earl Strom, Jake O’Donnell, Steve Javie, Jack Nies, Mark Wunderlich and Mike Callahan. Crawford’s father “Shag” and brother Jerry were longtime MLB umpires. Then there’s Joey, who worked deep into the new-millennial, social-media age and arguably is sports’ most recognizable ref or umpire.

He also was known, across 2,561 regular-season games and 374 more in the playoffs (including 50 Finals appearances), as one of sports’ toughest.

“‘Ain’t gonna be no shenanigans,'” James said, when asked what he thought whenever he realized Crawford would be working his game. “‘No horseplay tonight. We’d better be about all professional business, because he ain’t messin’ around.'”

James added: “Any ref that I can go up and talk to, man-to-man, I have respect. Just like every player’s different, every ref is different. You can’t go at one ref the way you go at another, just like I can’t lead Kyrie [Irving] how I lead Tristan [Thompson]. They’re two different guys. I’m a 13-year veteran, so you learn that over the years. But Joey’s well-respected by every player.”

Crawford on Joining Replay Center

Joey Crawford joins GameTime to talk about transitioning from a NBA referee to joining the replay center.

Once news broke of Crawford’s retirement — he still has been pulling shifts in the league’s Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J. — and as the event in Philadelphia neared, a number of players, coaches and colleague spoke about the man’s work and his personality, both of which will be absent from arenas and NBA telecasts. Here are some of them:

Kobe Bryant, Lakers star whose exit has synched up with Crawford’s: “Another Philly guy! He would never, ever B.S. you. If he felt like he made the right call, he’d tell you. If he felt like he missed it, he’d tell you he missed it. If he thought you were out there whinin’ like a baby, he’d tell you you were whinin’ like a baby.

“So I always had the utmost amount of respect for Joey and the intensity that he brought. I know he prepared extremely well before games. And I love him.”

Lakers veteran Metta World Peace: “One day I’ll get some coffee with him and give him a lot of [grief]. It was great to deal with him for all those years. There were times I’d get upset because they’d miss calls. But I tried not to think about it. You want to forget about the refs for the most part when you’re playing. But when you get a chance to B.S. with the refs, you can have some fun with it. Joey had a short fuse but it was never a concern of mine. Of course he tossed me, many times. But he’s great, other than that. Anybody who’s gone is gonna be missed — Joey’s one of ’em, Kobe’s one of ’em.”

Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett, who had plenty of disagreements with Crawford over the years: “He’s always been one of the great ones at what he do — I’ve always appreciated the great ones at their craft. I felt like I was treated fair. He’d talk to me and explain things when he didn’t have to, where other refs might have an ego or something. A no-nonsense kind of guy. There will never be another Joey Crawford, because he built that reputation, he built who he is.

“I remember in Boston we had a laugh — him, myself and Paul Pierce. He made a mistake, we kind of looked and the three of us all had a laugh. Obviously you’ve seen the video of him and Timmy [Duncan], but Joey’s always compassionate, I’ve always respected him, I’ve always felt I had respect coming back from him. I wish him the best, man.”

Longtime ref Bennett Salvatore, now a referee development/performance advisor: “I worked with him for so long, so many games. I’ve never met a guy with more passion for what he does, in basketball or out of basketball. He watched every game. When he’s home, he’s a basketball junkie. I think it’s a love for the game and it’s to be better at his job. He’s one of those people who, after 39 years, continues to work to get better every day.

“When we were young — Joey, I think, had five years in the league more than me — they used to pair us together in the 2-man system. Joey was the hot-tempered guy and I was more the medium-range guy, and honest to God, we used to fight our ways out of stadiums every night. We’d have five, six technical every night, and we’d just look at each other afterward and laugh.

“He’s the most recognizable sports official who’s out there — I kid him all the time, that might not be a good thing. He could be friendly with you without being your friend. If you crossed that professional line, he would immediately reprimand you in whatever manner was appropriate. I think that’s why he gained the ultimate respect by the players and the coaches. Joey was always fair — he didn’t care who, what, where or when. All he saw was the four corners of the court, the players, the ball and the basket. That was it. Everything else was by the rulebook.”

Joey Crawford: Top 5 NBA Moments

It’s time to say goodbye to Joey Crawford, but not before The Starters count down the Top 5 Moments from his illustrious career.

Lakers and former Pacers center Roy Hibbert: “We were playing the Lakers in L.A. and I remember he made a blocking call, and he skipped down the court going like this. I thought that was hilarious. But he’s probably one of the refs who let you go back and forth. He had a fuse for, like, how much he’d let you do it. But you respected him. And he could take a joke from time to time. He’s a nice guy.

“He’d always come to the bench at that first whistle, first horn — you had to get out there. He was serious about that stuff. One time that I thought was funny, Gerald Green — my former teammate — was in Phoenix and we were jawing back and forth, playfully. And he gave us both double techs. We walked up to him and said, ‘We’re just messin’ around. We’re former teammates.’ And he was like, ‘I don’t know who’s teammates and who’s not teammates.’ We thought that was funny. I’ll give him a hug when I see him.”

Former L.A. star-turned-coach Byron Scott: “I loved Joey Crawford as a referee. He’d done it for so many years. Wasn’t biased. Didn’t care if you were at home or on the road. And he was one of the most honest referees. There were a couple of times I felt he missed calls, and the next game he reffed us, he would tell me I was absolutely right.

“Back in our ’80s days, we were playing and Joey was reffing, and James Worthy was having a pretty bad game for James. And he was all over Joey: ‘That’s a foul! That’s a foul!’ Just going crazy on Joey. We’re going to the bench and James is still yelling at him. Joey comes over to our bench, spreads guys out of the way and walks up to James and says, ‘Don’t blame me because you’re having a bad [bleeping] night!’ That was perfect Joey Crawford — James looked at him and said, ‘You’re right.’ ”

Kendall Gill, 15-year NBA wing-turned-broadcaster in Chicago who keeps on his smartphone a video clip of a timeout exchange he had with Crawford: “I was telling him I was one of the league leaders in steals, historically. And that I didn’t foul the guy like he said. And he was like, ‘Are you really? I knew you were a good player but I didn’t know you were historical.’

“Whenever I had a game where he was working, we would always pose for a picture together. Because in my rookie [trading] card, Joey was in that shot and he knew it. So he’d be like, ‘Hey Kendall, let’s pose.’ seahawks jersey cheap I knew he respected all the players but if you got out of line, just like your father, he would quickly put you back in line.

“When you saw Joey Crawford, you knew that was a big game, because he was, like, at the top of the food chain as far as refs were concerned. You’ve got a lot of great refs in the league but if you think ‘NBA ref,’ Joey Crawford is the one who comes to mind.”

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. Trending

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NHL-leading Stars dealing with first dose of adversity

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NEW YORK — The Dallas Stars reached the halfway point of the season atop the NHL standings, but also dealing with a small dose of what’s mostly eluded them: adversity.

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It’s been an impressive season in Dallas. The Stars’ 28-9-4 record is the second-best in their history after 41 games, behind only the 1998-99 team (27-7-7) that won the Stanley Cup. Barring a Texas-sized collapse, the Stars will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in eight seasons and should stand a good chance of escaping the Western Conference First Round for the first time since 2007-08.

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However, Dallas enters its game Tuesday against the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET; FS-SW+, MSG+) at Madison Square Garden challenged physically and mentally. The Stars are 2-2-2 in their past six games, and their 6-5 loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday, one night after a 3-2 overtime defeat at the New Jersey Devils, marked the first time this season they’ve lost consecutive games.

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On the surface it’s a hiccup. Deep down, the Stars know there are issues to address before a snowball becomes an avalanche.

“It’s nice, adversity, sometimes,” center Tyler Seguin Jerseys said. “It’s good for the team. We knew it was going to come. We haven’t faced too much of it this year, knock on wood. It’s the first time this season we’ve lost back-to-back games so there’s a lot of things we can work on.”

One problem that’s been brewing is special teams. In the weekend losses to cheap motels in jersey city nj the Devils and Islanders, the Stars allowed 10 power cheap motels in jersey city nj plays, killing seven. Captain Jamie Benn Jerseys’s hooking penalty 1:07 into overtime led to the Devils’ game-winning power-play goal. Benn also took a holding penalty 32 seconds into the game Sunday and a double minor for high sticking later in the first period, which led to Islanders forward Anders Lee’s goal that tied the game 1-1. Defenseman Jason Demers Jerseys was giving a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty for boarding New York forward Cal Clutterbuck, leading to another power-play goal that put the Islanders ahead for good.

“You’re going to face adversity,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We haven’t faced a lot the first half of the season. For me our discipline in the game has gone a little bit sideways. We took a penalty in overtime that hurt us the other night in Jersey. You can’t take that many penalties and survive a hockey game.”

Fatigue may also be a factor. Dallas’ game Tuesday completes a stretch of three games in four nights and seven in 11 nights.

“I think that’s League-wide,” center Jason Spezza Jerseys said. “I think if you look around there’s probably a lot of teams going through similar things, but we’re definitely not quite as fresh as we’ve been at other times this season. But that’s the nature of the game.

“When you lose games everything gets looked into and micro-looked into and gets analyzed, and when you win it all gets painted over with a brush. So I think we have to be careful we don’t overanalyze.”

Goalie Kari Lehtonen Jerseys is also struggling. He’s been pulled twice in his past five starts while allowing a combined 14 goals with a 4.08 goals-against average and .874 save percentage. Still, Ruff has been happy with his goaltending tandem of Lehtonen and Antti Niemi.

“I think the goaltending has been a big plus for us in the first 41 games,” Ruff said. “I think there’s been an improvement; you look at the records. I think [Lehtonen] is going through a little bit of a hiccup right now, if that’s what you want to call it, but goaltending has been a plus for us.”

The Stars are also accomplishing a goal set at their first practice: A stronger commitment to defense has lowered their goals-against average from 3.13 per game last season (26th in the League) to 2.56 (13th).

“We’ve definitely matured our game and found ways to stay patient throughout the year,” Seguin said. “Being able to win those type games, low-scoring, we’ve felt comfortable in those. We want to be the best checkers in the League. I think we need to get back to that. We took a couple of games for granted on this trip so far, but we can finish off the trip the right way.

“It’s going to start with how this whole team plays in our own end. Obviously [Sunday] night, giving up six goals, that’s not how we want to play. We’ve tried to outscore teams in the past and in this League you have to have to play D-zone first and we know that. We look forward to the challenge [Tuesday] night.”

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL

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Five potential landing spots for Jason Pierre-Paul

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Jason Pierre-Paul is perhaps the biggest X-factor of this free agency class. He’s the player who inspired the most heated debate between Chris Wesseling and I while coming up with our Top 99 available players list. I see a player who still has potential to be among the 10 best at his position in football. Wess sees a guy who can’t tackle.
Top 99 available free agents
Ten free agents likely to change teams
Top free-agent bargains
Which players got franchise tagged?
Potential destinations for Mario Williams Jerseys
Free agents who will get paid too much
Salary-cap primer: Teams with most space
Salary-cap primer: Teams with least amount of space
Harrison: Best fits for free agents
AFC team needs
Unrestricted free agents list Watch:
Best free agents on the market
Three teams with major needs
Free agents with the best value

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From my vantage point, Pierre-Paul has a high floor and a high ceiling as a free agent. Just go back to watch his film from the second half of last season. Without any training camp work, he was highly disruptive as a pass rusher with 34 hurries and six quarterback hits in limited action, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s fair to criticize Pierre-Paul for failing to finish plays, but I don’t assume that he’s a finished product. He was just learning for the first time how to play football with a club on his hand. He underwent surgery in the offseason in hopes of wearing a glove in the future, which should help his tackling immensely. While the equipment changes, Pierre-Paul’s understanding of how to play around his handicap could as well.

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In a worst-case scenario, Pierre-Paul looks like an above average starter with a ton of experience despite being only 27 years old. Pro Football Focus rankings aren’t the final answer on a player, but they had him ranked as the No. 9 4-3 defensive end after he returned to the field in Week 9.

It will be fascinating to see what kind of interest Pierre-Paul inspires. The Giants reportedly wanted to sign him to a short-term “prove it” deal, and Pierre-Paul feels comfortable in New Jersey. If he was a free agent a year ago, he might have inspired a deal worth over $15 million per year. Now he will come at a discount, and he’s a good bet to be a great value.

So where could he land? Let’s break down five potential landing spots.

New York Giants: Let’s be clear that this is the most likely outcome. There are few teams in the NFL more desperate for defensive talent than Big Blue, so don’t discount a return to the Giants. Pierre-Paul reportedly impressed the Giants with his attitude and performance last season and there is optimism that his latest surgery will make it easier for him to play despite his missing fingers. There is also some belief that Pierre-Paul wants to stay put, appreciative of how the Giants handled his situation last year. He could take a one-year deal and try to strike it rich as a free agent again next season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs’ defensive end spot has long been a black hole in Tampa, with the team struggling just to find a single starter who is league average. Their best player at the position since Michael Bennett left in 2012 has been … Jacques Smith? The Bucs have a ton of salary-cap room and Pierre-Paul played his college ball in Tampa. They are the type of team that should take a chance on him.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys are suddenly thin at defensive end with Greg Hardy Jerseys and Jeremy Mincey Jerseys headed www cheap jersey us for free agency. Randy Gregory is suspended the first four games of the season and Demarcus Lawrence Jerseys is coming off back surgery. If Pierre-Paul is going to take a short-term deal to rebuild his value, he couldn’t pick a better place to get attention. Jerry Jones is familiar with JPP’s big play ability, including one famous block.

Jacksonville Jaguars: With more than $80 million in cap room and a win-now season coming up, the Jaguars are logical suitors for nearly any premium defensive talent. Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell have been searching for one-on-one pass rushers since they arrived in town with little success. The team already has Dante Fowler and Jared Odrick, but they are very different players than Pierre-Paul. The group’s versaility would give Bradley a lot of options.

Oakland Raiders: With the Aldon Smith era ending quickly, we expect general manager Reggie McKenzie to hit free agency again to find a bookend for Khalil Mack. Smith and Mack gave the Raiders’ defense an identity early last season, and Pierre-Paul could help to do the same.