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Joseph Crawford, born August 30, 1951 in Havertown, Pennsylvania [1] is an American retired professional basketball referee who worked in the National Basketball Association (NBA) between 1977 and 2016. Crawford, who wore uniform number 17, was one of the strictest and most controversial officials in the NBA and developed a reputation for assessing technical fouls against both players and coaches.[2][3] As of the conclusion of the 2014–15 NBA season, Crawford worked more playoff (313) and NBA Finals games (50) than any other active referee in the league[2][4][5] and appeared in the Finals every year between 1986 and 2006. He appeared in 29 of the last 30 NBA Finals series, missing only the 2007 NBA Finals, due to suspension. In addition to playoff games, Crawford has officiated the NBA All-Star Game in 1986, 1992 and 2000, as well as the 1993 McDonald's Championship in Munich, Germany.

Joey Crawford
Crawford pointing in uniform
Joey Crawford in 2008
Born (1951-08-30) August 30, 1951 (age 68)
EducationCardinal O'Hara High School
OccupationReferee (NBA)
Mary Crawford (m. 1971)
ChildrenAmy Crawford, Megan Crawford, and Erin Crawford
Parent(s)Shag and Vivian Crawford

Early careerEdit

Crawford officiated high school games in Pennsylvania for eight years from 1970 to 1977 and the Eastern Basketball Association (later the Continental Basketball Association, or CBA) in 1974 and 1977. Following his work in the CBA, Crawford was hired by the NBA in 1977 at the age of 26.

NBA referee careerEdit

Airline ticket income investigationEdit

In 1998, Crawford was one of eight NBA referees charged with filing false income tax returns after an Internal Revenue Service investigation found that cash was being pocketed by referees when airline tickets provided by the league were downgraded. At the conclusion of a four-year investigation, Crawford pleaded guilty on July 1, 1998[6] to falsely stating income of $82,500 from 1991 to 1993[7] and resigned from the NBA effective immediately. He was reinstated by NBA commissioner David Stern in 1999 and did not miss a game due to the players' lockout that started the 1998–99 NBA season.[8]

Games officiated milestoneEdit

Crawford officiated his 2,000th NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers on November 11, 2005. He was the sixth NBA referee in history to reach such a milestone, joining Mendy Rudolph, Jake O'Donnell, Dick Bavetta, Earl Strom, and Tommy Nuñez.[3]

Tim Duncan altercationEdit

On April 15, 2007, Crawford ejected San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan during a game against the Dallas Mavericks. Crawford alleged that Duncan was laughing at him on the bench and insulted him with an expletive.[8] Duncan later claimed that Crawford asked him if he wanted to fight.[9] On April 17, Crawford was suspended for the remainder of the 2006–07 season and the 2007 Playoffs as a result of this altercation, ending his 21 consecutive NBA Finals appearances. The league also fined Duncan $25,000 for verbal abuse of an official and warned that a repeat incident in the future would result in an ejection. Commissioner David Stern said Crawford's actions "failed to meet the standards of professionalism and game management we expect of NBA referees."[8] Crawford met with league officials on July 30 to discuss his future in the NBA but no resolution was reached.[10]

On September 17, 2007, the NBA announced Crawford's reinstatement. Commissioner Stern met with Crawford and stated, "Based on my meeting with Joey Crawford, his commitment to an ongoing counseling program and a favorable professional evaluation that was performed at my direction, I am satisfied that Joey understands the standards of game management and professionalism the NBA expects from him and that he will be able to conduct himself in accordance with those standards."

Crawford admitted the Duncan incident was one of the biggest regrets of his career, saying "The Duncan thing probably changed my life. It was just—you come to the realization that maybe the way you've been doing things is not the proper way and you have to regroup, not only on the court but off the court. I had seen a sports psychologist before that. But after, I saw him a lot more. ... It gave me a new perspective."[5]


On January 2, 2015, Crawford announced that the 2015–2016 NBA season would be his last.[11] A nagging knee injury prevented him from officiating much of the season, Crawford returned during March 2016 but on March 10, 2016 Crawford announced he would be retiring from NBA officiating effective immediately, due to his knee not healing as expected. He ended his 39-year career as having officiated 2,561 regular-season games, the most playoffs games ever recorded by a referee with 374 playoff games worked, and 50 NBA Finals games.[12][13]

Personal lifeEdit

Crawford's father, Shag Crawford, was a Major League Baseball umpire in the National League from 1956 to 1975 and his brother, Jerry, was a major league umpire from 1976 through 2010.[1][2][14]

Crawford currently resides in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.[1] From 1965 to 1969 Crawford attended Cardinal O'Hara High School, the same high school as fellow NBA referees Mike Callahan, Ed Malloy, and Tim Donaghy.

He married Mary Crawford in 1971 and had three children and ten grandchildren.[14] Crawford's son-in-law Chris Day, is the former head women's basketball coach at Vermont.[15]


  1. ^ a b c "Joe Crawford #17". National Basketball Referees Association. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Arehart, Jim (May 2004). "Being Joe Crawford". Referee. Archived from the original on April 23, 2007. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Extra-Ordinary Average Joe". November 11, 2005. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  4. ^ "Joe Crawford stats". Basketball Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Zillgitt, Jeff (June 18, 2013). "Tim Duncan nemesis Joey Crawford will ref Game 6". USA Today.
  6. ^ "Ex-Referee Under House Arrest". CBS October 2, 1998. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  7. ^ "Crawford pleads guilty to tax fraud". Sports Illustrated. June 25, 1998. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
  8. ^ a b c "NBA suspends referee Crawford indefinitely". April 17, 2007. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
  9. ^ "Ref suspended for actions toward Duncan". MSNBC. Associated Press. April 17, 2007. Archived from the original on April 18, 2007. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
  10. ^ "Crawford meets with NBA; suspension remains". August 1, 2007. Retrieved August 1, 2007.
  11. ^ McCaffery, Jack Legendary NBA referee Joe Crawford to retire at end of season Delaware County Daily Times. January 4, 2016
  12. ^ Aschburner, Steve (March 10, 2016). "Injury ends ref Crawford's farewell season early".
  13. ^ "Longtime NBA referee Joey Crawford to retire after season". ESPN. January 2, 2016. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  14. ^ a b "Interview with Joey Crawford". Referee. October 1998. Archived from the original on April 19, 2007. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
  15. ^ "In The Community: Beautiful Day for basketball in Vermont".