Even the most casual of NBA fans would likely recognize Crawford’s bald head and inimitable style on the court, one that’s included plenty of memorable moments of quirkiness.
But while Crawford was in the middle of plenty of social media moments, he’s always been one of the league’s top officials. He’s worked 50 NBA Finals games, and has been as much of a fixture on the court as any of the league’s star players in late May and June for as long as anyone can remember.
With Crawford’s retirement, the NBA loses a one-of-a-kind referee, even at the advanced age of 64. And there isn’t anyone among the current crop of referees who can replicate how Crawford has become a household name. One of Crawford’s famous sparring partners over the years, Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, put it best when he was asked by the San Antonio-Express News about him over the weekend.
“Everybody’s got to retire sometime,” Popovich said. “You and I will too.
“But you hate to see someone who is that good at his craft not be doing it anymore. He’s obviously been an iconic figure for a long time.”
The NBA isn’t going anywhere, but it will certainly lose something by not having Crawford involved with it anymore. The fact so many fans know him so well is proof of that.
This week’s rankings
1. San Antonio Spurs (29-6) | Last week’s rank: 2
It’s a tribute to San Antonio’s dominance that it’s almost as surprising when they lose as when Golden State does.
2. Golden State Warriors (31-2) | Last week’s rank: 1
We are unfortunately getting a lesson in what happens to the Warriors when Stephen Curry has to sit. After one blowout loss and nearly losing to the Nuggets, its proven to be pretty ugly.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-10) | Last week’s rank: 3
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City just keeps on rolling, having won four in a row and eight of 10.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-9) | Last week’s rank: 4
The distance between the Cavaliers and the rest of the East continues to grow larger by the week.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (22-13) | Last week’s rank: 9
No Blake Griffin? No problem, as the Clippers have now won seven in a row.
6. Chicago Bulls (20-12) | Last week’s rank: 12
So much for the Bulls struggling. Now they’ve won four straight– including Jimmy Butler’s 40-point explosion in the second half Sunday to beat Toronto.
7. Miami Heat (20-13) | Last week: 8
The Heat still doesn’t have all the kinks figured out offensively, but its consistently good performances at the other end have made up for that.
8. Atlanta Hawks (21-14) | Last week’s rank: 5
Trading away the No. 15 pick in the 2015 draft for Tim Hardaway Jr. (four games played) remains a move that’s hard to understand.
9. Toronto Raptors (21-14) | Last week’s rank: 7
Given the Raptors are the team that allowed Kobe Bryant to score 81 points in a game, Butler’s 40-point showing Sunday was something they’d seen before.
10. Dallas Mavericks (19-15) | Last week’s rank: 10
Is there anything that could be more fun in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs than a Clippers-Mavericks series after last summer’s battle over DeAndre Jordan?
11. Indiana Pacers (19-14) | Last week’s rank: 8
Apparently Paul George’s prior complaining to the officials didn’t do much good …
12. Orlando Magic (19-15) | Last week’s rank: 13
The Magic keeps saying it’s not doing things well, but it keeps on winning games. Scott Skiles is at it again.
13. Boston Celtics (18-13) | Last week’s rank: 11
Brad Stevens was getting existential after Saturday’s loss to the Nets.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (18-17) | Last week’s rank: 16
The Grizzlies are hanging around, but it feels like this team’s incredibly fun contending window using Grit-n-Grind has shut.
15. Detroit Pistons (18-16) | Last week’s rank: 17
It still feels like Detroit is a move away from being a playoff team in the improved Eastern Conference.
16. Charlotte Hornets (17-16) | Last week’s rank: 15
Reality check: Since Al Jefferson began missing time at the start of December, the Hornets have gone from being +4.6 points per 100 possessions to +0.5 per 100. Now Jefferson remains out for six more weeks.
17. Washington Wizards (15-17) | Last week’s rank: 14
The Wizards continue to play with several guys sidelined because of injury — and that’s taking a toll on the court.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (15-21) | Last week’s rank: 19
That Portland remains on the fringes of playoff contention while Damian Lillard continues to sit is the latest impressive piece of coaching by Terry Stotts this season.
19. Utah Jazz (15-17) | Last week’s rank: 20
This weekend turned into a pretty great one for Jazz swingman Rodney Hood.
20. Houston Rockets (16-19) | Last week’s rank: 17
It feels like this team is simply never going to make sense this season.
21. New York Knicks (16-19) | Last week’s rank: 21
Every time it looks like the Knicks are about to fade from the playoff picture, they find a way to stay afloat.
22. Sacramento Kings (13-20) | Last week’s rank: 22
The Kings may be all over the place, but this was a brilliant tweet.
23. New Orleans Pelicans (11-22) | Last week’s rank: 23
There are still four teams between them and the eighth playoff spot, but the Pelicans remain in the hunt — they’re just four back.
24. Milwaukee Bucks (14-21) | Last week’s rank: 27
Milwaukee remains 27th in defensive efficiency, and don’t seem likely to get anywhere close to last year’s impressive showing at that end.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-22) | Last week’s rank: 25
Minnesota Coach Sam Mitchell wasn’t happy with his young team after Saturday’s loss.
26. Denver Nuggets (12-23) | Last week’s rank: 24
Will Barton is a legitimate candidate for sixth man of the year and most improved player, but there hasn’t been much else to get excited about in Denver lately.
27. Brooklyn Nets (10-23) | Last week’s rank: 28
Best wishes to Jarrett Jack — one of the nicest guys in the NBA — in his recovery from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered Saturday in Boston.
Fluke finder: The Nets may only have 10 wins this year, but six have come against teams with .500 records (Boston twice, Chicago, Miami, Detroit, Atlanta) and two others have come against Houston, a playoff team in the West.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (8-27) | Last week’s rank: 29
If there were any two games the Lakers should have lost this season, they were to the Sixers. So, of course, they won both.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (3-33) | Last week’s rank: 30
It took a lot to get the Sixers off the bottom of this list. But, after several weeks, it’s finally happened.
30. Phoenix Suns (12-25) | Last week’s rank: 26
… and it’s happened because the Suns are a complete catastrophe.
Your Social Media Moment of Clarity
Ben Simmons isn’t even in the NBA yet and he’s already teaching referees about the game.
Your Social Media Moment of Clarity, Part Two
No offense, Mark Jackson, but hard to see how plays like this aren’t good for the game.
Your Social Media Moment of Clarity, Part Three
This one speaks for itself.