Referee Dick Bavetta Retires After 39 Years

Legendary NBA referee Dick Bavetta has retired after 39 years of work. The 74 year-old Bavetta served as official in a mind-bending record of 2,635 consecutive games from his debut on December 2, 1975 through the conclusion of the 2013-2014 season.

NBA President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn had this to say on the end of Bavetta’s amazing career:

“Dick’s dedication and commitment to his craft has been an inspiration to all NBA officials. We are grateful for his contributions to our league, and we wish him the best as he enjoys his well-earned retirement.”

In a statement released yesterday, Bavetta said he’s especially pleased that he never missed a single assignment throughout his four-decade tenure:

“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.”

The Brooklyn native’s list of accomplishments is as long as it is impressive. Highlights of his career include officiating every NBA Finals game from 1990-2008, becoming the first NBA referee to work an Olympics in 1992, and an amusing foot-race with Charles Barkley at 2007 All-Star weekend.

Bavetta was well-respected by his officiating peers as well as players and coaches throughout the league. Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver notes that Bavetta was twice voted by players as one of the most objective referees in the NBA.

However, that’s not to say his storied career played-out absent controversy. Bavetta came under scrutiny in 2008 as federal investigators conducted a probe of disgraced former official Tim Donaghy. According to fellow referee Hue Hollins and another unnamed referee, they were questioned more about Bavetta’s potentially illicit officiating than Donaghy’s.

It’s pertinent to note that commissioner David Stern came out in strong support of Bavetta and nothing concrete arose from those suspicions. Obviously, the NBA was unconcerned that Bavetta was anything but unbiased as he continued working games without disruption for six additional seasons.

Take this as your lasting impression of Bavetta: He entered the league five years before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and stayed long enough for Jason Kidd to become a coach – without missing a game.

If he’s not the Michael Jordan of officiating, basically, he’s certainly Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(Video via KissThaRings Video Hall)

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