Richard Jefferson’s Refereeing Career Got Off To A Rocky Start With His First Call

Summer League isn’t just a showcase for players trying to break into the NBA, but also coaches and referees, as assistants get to move up the bench and step into bigger roles, and referees from the G League get to referee NBA games in an effort to prove themselves as well.

On Tuesday, a brand new referee made his debut at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas in the second quarter of Knicks-Blazers, as former player and current ESPN analyst Richard Jefferson got his chance to try adjudicating a real live game. Jefferson spent the week in the ref meetings and put in the leg work to be ready, but sometimes all the preparation in the world can’t quite get you ready for game speed. On the first call of the game he had to make, Jefferson got an out of bounds decision wrong and heard it from players and the crowd, eventually overturning it with the help of another ref, while the Knicks coach gave him some grief over it.

Jefferson definitely took his responsibility seriously during play, but did have some fun with players and the crowd, even at one point hearing it from Tom Thibodeau who was seated courtside to watch the young Knicks.

Overall it was a fairly uneventful refereeing debut from Jefferson, which is a good thing for someone in that job. It’s one of the few where if no one notices you, you’re doing the right things, and if everyone is aware of your presence, it’s probably for the wrong reasons. It’ll be interesting to see how Jefferson’s experience trying to call fouls and everything else impacts how he views referees, because while it’s always easy to get mad at them from the couch, it is an almost impossibly difficult job with the speed of the NBA game.