Friday, April 19, 2024
11:30am - Social | 12:00pm - Lunch and Program
Joseph Patrick Crawford, born August 30, 1951, in Philadelphia, is a renowned NBA referee with over 39 years of experience. He officiated over 2,000 regular season games, 374 playoff games, and 50 NBA Finals games. Crawford is known for his dedication to mentoring young officials and promoting basketball worldwide. He's a recipient of numerous awards, including "The Golden Whistle" from NASO.
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Joe Crawford’s Bio
Joseph Patrick Crawford was born in Philadelphia on August 30, 1951 to Vivian and Henry “Shag” Crawford. Joe was the youngest of four, rounding out the family of oldest sister, Patti, and brothers, Bunky and Jerry. When Joe was six years old, the family moved to the western Philadelphia suburb of Havertown. Joe attended St. Pius X grade school in Broomall and Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, graduating in 1969.
Joe’s father, Shag, was a National League umpire. His father traveled quite a bit and was gone for long stretches at a time. However, Shag’s profession provided for a comfortable lifestyle and the opportunity to attend many professional sporting events. While watching games or talking sports, the conversations often turned to officiating. Jerry and Joe studied the games of baseball and basketball and even played a bit. Through Shag’s connections, they were introduced to officials at the local, college and professional levels. They were hooked. Both brothers started out as umpires. While Jerry progressed through the ranks, ultimately reaching the major leagues in 1976, Joe turned his sights on something to match his activity level…basketball.
Joe started working grade school Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) games and recreational leagues at the age of eighteen. He built himself quite a reputation throughout the Philadelphia area for his tenacity and quick “T”, but also for his fairness, persistence and dedication to the game. He was rewarded with a full high school schedule each season as well as countless rec and summer league games. Wherever and whenever there was a game, he would work it. Joe worked his way up to Philadelphia Public and Catholic League playoff and championship games, the pinnacle of success for an aspiring official from this area.
Joe broke into the Eastern Basketball Association in 1973 (later known as the Continental Basketball Association or CBA). Four years later, he was hired by the National Basketball Association at the age of 26. Over the course of Joe’s illustrious 39-year career, he became one of only eight NBA referees to work over 2000 regular season games, ending with 2,556. Joe officiated 374 playoff games, the most of any NBA referee. In addition, he worked 50 NBA Finals games, again, the most of any NBA referee, including three Game 7s in 1994, 2005 and 2010. Joe officiated three All-Star Games: Dallas in 1986, Orlando in 1992 and Oakland in 2000. He also worked the McDonald’s Championship in Munich, Germany in 1993.
Early in his career, Joe learned from the best of the best: Joe Gushue, Earl Strom, Darrell Garretson. When he became a crew chief, a role he served in for the majority of his career, Joe knew he had the opportunity to influence young referees in the same way that he was mentored. From 1996 – 2016, Joe and other Philadelphia area NBA referees ran Next Level Referee Training in conjunction with the men’s basketball team camp at Villanova University. Referees worked highly competitive high school games while simultaneously being evaluated, critiqued and mentored by those at the highest level of their profession. Upon his retirement from officiating in 2016, Joe was offered a position with NBA Referee Operations as their Referee Development Performance Director to continue with his desire to mentor and develop young officials.
Throughout his life, Joe has been full of gratitude for the people who have helped him in both his career and his life. He tries to give back as much as possible and he has been unexpectedly honored in many ways. Joe has been involved in promoting women’s basketball since the late 1980’s, especially with The Comets, a nationally recognized AAU organization. He mentors local high school referees, attending their games and breaking down tape in his basement. He attends his grandchildren’s sporting events and the football and basketball games of his high school alma mater. He has participated in Basketball Without Border events in India, Japan and Serbia. Joe is a member of the Cardinal O’Hara High School Hall of Fame, The Delaware County Sports Hall of Fame and The Philadelphia Black Sports Hall of Fame. In 2014, Joe was awarded “The Golden Whistle”, the top honor given annually by the National Association of Sporting Officials (NASO).
One regret Joe had was not furthering his education. He decided to return to the classroom for his college degree and graduated from Neumann University in 2009. Joe and his wife, Mary, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in March, 2022. They have three daughters, Amy, Megan and Erin and ten grandchildren ranging in age from 5 to 22.