Joe Crawford

One of the most instantly recognizable sports officials of all-time.

Joe Crawford’s key accomplishments include:

  • NBA referee from 1977-2016.
  • Officiated 2,561 regular season NBA games.
  • Officiated 374 NBA playoff games - the most ever.
  • Worked 50 NBA Finals games - second all time.
  • Officiated the 1986, 1992 and 2000 NBA All-Star games.
  • Officiated the 1993 McDonald’s Championship in Munich, Germany.
  • Crawford received the NASO Gold Whistle Award in 2014, officiating’s highest honor.

More about Joe Crawford:

Crawford comes from a background of officiating. His father Shag Crawford is a retired MLB umpire. His brother, Jerry Crawford is an active umpire. Crawford tried baseball but quickly fell in love with the game of basketball and went his own path within the family officiating tree. In addition to his work in basketball, Crawford is heavily involved in helping his hometown community of Philadelphia.

Prior to entering the NBA Crawford had officiated in Eastern Basketball Association (later become the Continental Basketball Association, CBA) in 1974 and 1977. Crawford began officiating in 1970 working high school games in Pennsylvania until being hired in the NBA in 1977.

Joe Crawford appeared in a feature article in the August 2014 issue of Referee Magazine.

What people have said about Joe Crawford:

“Joey depicts what every official should strive to be. That’s someone who got to the top of his game early, but always worked to stay at the top of his game and never stopped trying to improve. He always has been a caring and giving individual to lots of individuals, lots of organizations and has been very quiet in that regard, but had that hothead image. But he worked hard to change that and he’s worked hard to realize that just didn’t get him where he personally wanted to be. Some people who are at the top of their game might say, ‘Nah, I got here for who I am and they’re just going to have to accept me for who I am.’ But he said, ‘No, I need to change.’ He’s someone I call a friend, but I also admire him as someone you want to be like.”

— Jeff Triplette

NFL referee and former chair of the NASO board of directors

“From hotel employees to van drivers to the neighborhood parish in which he was raised, Joe has been a selfless giver who is quick to make those working hard for a living feel included, validated and welcomed through his sense of humor and questions about their lives. I’ve seen the neighborhood corner shoe repair man, ‘Lou the Shoe,’ have a lighter step when Joe walks in with shoes. I’ve seen a young referee’s demeanor change for the better when Joe Crawford offers words of encouragement. I’ve seen it so many times that it has become clear to me that this is the totality of the man and the public ideas about him are more shadow than substance.”

— Monty McCutchen

A longtime NBA referee

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