NBA referees are rarely popular among fans. For fans, knowing and having to use the name of a referee is usually a negative, because that means the ref has been, at least in part, the focal point of the game. That said, there are referees that have been around long enough and called enough big games and important series that everyone knows who they are.
Joey Crawford was the most famous NBA referee for years, thanks to his bravado when making calls, but he retired after the 2015-16 season following a 39-year career. Danny Crawford, of no relation to Joey, then took the mantle of the best known referee in the league. As a 31-year veteran of the NBA circuit, Crawford worked a game in 23 consecutive NBA Finals — more than 30 Finals games in total — and has long been one of the league’s most respected officials.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Crawford was retiring, leaving the NBA without one of their most tenured and best referees heading into the 2017-18 season.
The quality of officiating in the NBA is tremendous, despite what fans often think — all it takes is to watch lower levels of basketball to appreciate the abilities of NBA referees to call games well — and Crawford was one of the best lead officials in the league. He was respected by players and coaches and, while there will undoubtedly be some that felt he was anti-this team or that team, his presence on the court will be missed by most, as can be evidenced by some of the messages posted to Twitter by NBA players following his announcement.