We don’t often notice the referees, and the ones we do (looking at you, Joey Crawford) we tend to single out for poor reasons. That was just how Dick Bavetta liked it, as he came to work each and every day and did the best he could before moving onto his next assignment. Such was life in the NBA for Bavetta, who has announced his retirement after 39 years as a professional referee.
Bavetta was the senior member on the NBA referee staff after starting way back in December of 1975. He officiated a game between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden (nice way to start a career) and never looked back — he didn’t miss one assignment in his career, adding up to an ironman-like streak of 2,635 consecutive regular season games.
NBA President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn had this to say about Bavetta:
Dick’s dedication and commitment to his craft has been an inspiration to all NBA officals. We are grateful for his contributions to our league, and we wish him the best as he enjoys his well-earned retirement.
Some may remember Bavetta in a very light-hearted way, as he raced Charles Barkley back at the 2007 All-Star game:
At 74 years old, there’s no question that Bavetta paid his dues in the NBA and has earned his retirement. He refereed in the CBA (Eastern League), Rucker League, FIBA, Jersey Shore Basketball League and the Public and Catholic High School leagues in New York City.
Just as he served the league, he departed with humility and class:
“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. 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.”
With Bavetta’s retirement, Crawford becomes the senior member of the staff, having refereed 37 seasons.
Information and quotes via the NBA’s official press release.