Crawford recently opened up about his long journey into basketball officiating, an open discussion about his anger management issues and upbringing influences, his quick ascent to the top of his game and a uniquely common sports injury—for a referee, at least.
At the young age of 25, Crawford worked his first NBA game: Still a young adult, Crawford recalls the first time he met Los Angeles Lakers superfan Jack Nicholson:
I was a big Jack Nicholson fan, I loved his stuff. I would see him there and I would catch his eye, but I never said anything. But in my third yera in the league, I put my jacket there and I see him and I catch his eye and I say, 'How you doing, Jack?' and he actually says, 'How you doing, Joe?' and I was exploding. I went and called my wife. I'm not kidding, I ran to a pay phone. And when she picked up, I screamed, 'Jack Nicholson knows me!'Crawford also recalls his decision to seek help for anger management: "One night, I hit Bill Fitch with a technical so hard, I broke my finger ... After that mess was the first time I called the sports psychologist."
Through therapy, Crawford learned his upbringing played a prominent role in his demeanor and quick temper—his father Shag Crawford was an MLB umpire and would get into heated and expletive-filled confrontations and arguments with managers in front of young Joey: "I'm watchimg my father call George Myatt, or whoever's managing the Phillies, [an expletive] right to his face. I saw it, I heard it."
Crawford is now 60, finishing his 35th season of NBA basketball. Throughout his time, he has dealt with the issue of age-related fatigue: fellow referee Dick Bavetta might wear umpteen pairs of socks every night—Crawford changes his shoes every 15 games and washes his uniform daily.
When he started to go bald, Crawford coped by shaving his entire head—that was in 2005 when the comb-over was still king. These days, Crawford shaves his scalp every other day.
He admits he has two regrets: First, Crawford wishes he had behaved differently during a 1998 episode that led to a guilty plea of falsely stating income with the IRS—Crawford was one of several officials who had downgraded first class airline tickets, leading to the undeclared income and criminal charges.
Crawford also regrets the Tim Duncan incident, admitting, "The Duncan thing probably changed my life ... After that, I saw [sports psychologist Joel Fish] a lot more ... It gave me a new perspective."
In the end, Crawford considers his journey a tremendous success: "My career has been so wonderful ... I think back to [the three Game 7s] sometimes and in those three games, the biggest games you could have, we did well. We did so well. You know how I know? Because when you go through those three games and nobody is saying a word about the three of you afterward, that's the pinnacle."
So what do Crawford and West have in common?
Their mechanics—"For an easy offensive foul, I just go like this, with one little finger out pointing like a gun. That was Joe West's old called-strike pose, and I liked that call so I did it."
News: Joey Crawford Sounds Off on 35 Years as an NBA Referee [The New York Times]