Joe Crawford: The Legacy and More


Apart from the Duncan-issue (see down below), there are some funny and even misunderstood plays hanging around the internet featuring Joe Crawford.

We tried to shed light on three of these, asking right from The Right Man what happened.

1. Dragging off Scottie Pippen

Surprisingly enough, Joe said that he had not remembered this at all until after, years later somebody came up with this ‘meme’.

MYTH: Joe dragged off Pippen because he thought he was flopping.

TRUTH: “At that time, we were instructed to not stop the game due to an injury.” But I said: “he can get hurt under the basket, so I drag him off in order to protect him.”

He adds jokingly: “I was surprised how strong a person I was. Pippen was a pretty big guy, so I’m proud I actually managed to drag him.”

2. The never-ending blocking foul signal

He did indeed remember this one. This is a great example to learn from your own mistakes. Joe said that the most embarrassing part here is not his excessive signal, but the fact that is was actually NOT a blocking foul. “The defender was standing there for like a year.” – he shared his view in an honest and self-critical manner.

One thing’s for sure. He did sell the call!

 3. Buying beer for the spectators

“This is funny.” – he begins. “I did that a few times before I was caught.” 

The truth is, the veteran guys told me to bring my money with me to the court as back in the days, there were no guards and sometimes, people broke into the officials’ locker room.

“When the crowd there was screaming at me and was going nuts, I waited until the next time-out to see if there was a concession guy/girl. I gave them money and said: ‘Look, buy a beer for these guys. They need to relax a bit.’

The funniest part is that I walked over and waited to see their faces. When the concession guy actually told them that the beer was from the referee, they looked at me in disbelief and I waved back at them, smiling. It was so, so funny to see their looks.”

The league no longer allows refs to buy beer for the spectators, but, this story has its own moral:

It did solve the conflict because it was a pattern breaker.

“The front-row spectators are mostly season-ticket holders, so we actually met a couple of times. They used to yell at me, but now we are friends forever.”


When not in a referee’s uniform, we got to know Joe Crawford as a fun-loving, easy-going and absolutely friendly and respectful person.

During the recording of our 2-hour long interview, we explored that he is absolutely highly knowledgeable and he shared with us numerous invaluable tips. Apart from serious topics like ‘preparation’, he was mostly joking around, laughing and helped to create an easy atmosphere.

Those who follow basketball meme pages might know that Joe Crawford is one of the popular targets of the editors. Of course, Joe knows that and he even feels embarrassed for the mistakes he might have made.

He is a man who is able to admit his faults. Few might know that after the notorious ejection of Tim Duncan for ‘laughing on the bench’, Joe started to visit a psychologist who helped him a lot to deal with himself. He admits that he was angry with himself when he lost control.

This is why he is so great in our eyes!

Even after refereeing thousands of games in the world’s top league, he still says he learns something new about officiating with every game.  He could have just sat back, and say that he was one of the most experienced refs anyway. He did not. He was constantly pushing himself past his limits. His passion and love for the game made him who he is.

Only with the inner drive, you can be the best!

Joe Crawford is a happy man who loves life and takes pride in his wife, his 3 daughters and 10 grandkids. He is also a fan of women’s basketball, although he did not referee in the WNBA.

He is a man who loved his job more than anyone and during his free time, guess what: he watches basketball games on TV.


  • More than 2500 regular-season games.
  • 344 playoff contests.
  • 50 finals
  • including 3 finals game 7s (1994, 2005, 2010)

Joe recalls that the best of the game is just play. Of course, they trash talk each other, but he doesn’t really remember that. They don’t talk that much to referees. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and the others were busy winning the game, not talking to refs all the time.

His approach was the same for every game: he tried to work an exhibition game the same way he does an NBA finals game. He has one more piece of wisdom for all:

You’re the same all the time

That’s the biggest compliment any referee can get.

This is the end of our 4-part interview.

On behalf of Referee Mindset, we wish Joe Crawford only the best!



About David

David Szots is an aspiring young basketball official who is passionate about studying the world's top referees and is looking for quality content all over the web to help others and share information


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