Steve Javie retires, and you will miss him

Ball Don't Lie

Steve Javie is retiring from refereeing NBA games, and you're no doubt smiling and happy with this news.

If you're an NBA fan, you likely have a favorite team. And whether you're the type to pin a Lakers flag to your car antenna every spring or eagerly be among the hundreds to tune into a Charlotte Bobcats game locally on a Tuesday night in December, you probably have a favorite team. And you probably think Steve Javie had it out for you. And you're probably wrong.

(Unless you're a Bulls fan. I still don't get why Javie had to hate the Bulls so much. What a hack.)

Yes, Javie earned a reputation as one of the quickest to toss out technical fouls during his 25 years with the NBA, but you have to also understand that Javie's work was a function of his era. It's like faulting Boston's drummer for having a giant afro and a gong behind his drum set.

Javie did nearly all of his "damage" (to quite-partial fans of each NBA team) in the NBA's three-referee era. That era designated specific spots on the court for each referee to own. And though other refs could huddle and overrule a call out of their "zone," the shift from two referees calling it like they saw it to three referees charged with almost fulfilling a quota in their designated jurisdiction led to increased whistles and more frustration from fans. All encouraged by the league, itself.


(Also, the Detroit Pistons had a bit of a role in all that. The Knicks and Pat Riley were soon to follow.)

And then, as Javie grew into his deserved role as a lead ref, the 1994 world championships happened. Derrick Coleman, Shawn Kemp and Larry Johnson hung on a lot of rims, slapped the backboards, and pointed at Alton Lister. Worried, and without Michael Jordan around, the NBA started doling out technical fouls for all sorts of infractions that fell under the "taunting" umbrella. And Javie was a man of his time.

He mellowed a bit as his reputation grew, but mostly (to this observer) because he appeared to engage with players more than most other lead referees of his generation. The NBA, since the early 1990s, has essentially demanded that refs stare straight ahead and more or less dismiss players as they plead their cases, but Javie talked. He explained. But reputations, especially for fringe characters in this bloated basketball drama, are hard to change.

As it stands, a knee injury will prevent Javie from entering his second quarter-century as an NBA referee, and I don't care what you think about what he did to your team with that call that one Wednesday a few years ago, the league won't be as good without him. And it certainly won't be as interesting. If anything, now is the time to pay your respects, after 25 years of screeching at Steve for being a bum.

(Also, as announced last season, Bob Delaney has retired, but it's not as if that guy has an interesting back story.)

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