The Washington Post

Dick Bavetta, the NBA’s Iron Man referee, retires after 39 years

Dick Bavetta slapped Dirk Nowitzki, much to his amazement, with his third foul in a May 2003 playoff game. (AP file)

One of the more familiar faces of the NBA is retiring, ending a career that began in 1975.

Referee Dick Bavetta — it seems impossible to refer to him any other way — has been a fixture at games since he worked his first NBA game on Dec. 2, 1975, at Madison Square Garden. A Brooklyn native, he is the league’s iron man, having worked 2,635 consecutive regular-season games and never missing an assigned game. Bavetta worked 270 playoff games and 27 NBA Finals games.

“Dick’s dedication and commitment to his craft has been an inspiration to all NBA officials,” Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of basketball operations, said in making the announcement. “We are grateful for his contributions to our league, and we wish him the best as he enjoys his well-earned retirement.”

Bavetta also worked three All-Star games and was the first NBA ref selected to work the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

“On behalf of myself and the entire Bavetta family, I would like to thank the NBA family and the National Basketball Referee Association for allowing me the honor and the privilege of representing them for 39 wonderful years,” he said in a statement released by the league..

“I am most proud of never having missed an assigned game, be it exhibition, regular season or playoffs, throughout my entire career. It really has been a great run.”

That run included working a game the night after he was punched in the nose while trying to break up a fight between Jalen rose and Patrick Ewing.

“Oh I have had many close calls over the years,” Bavetta said (via ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk) last spring. “We are contracted to do 82 games just like the teams. Unfortunately we don’t get 41 home games so we are on the road quite often. It is something that becomes a part of your life.

“You have to be an independent individual and most importantly you have to have a family that is supportive of you, a wife that understands that you are going to miss a birthday here or there and daughters that understand that a prom may be missed or something like that. The NBA will try to work around that for you, but that is part of what we do and it is an accepted fact and we accept that gladly.”

Maybe, one last time, he can race Charles Barkley.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.



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