After 39 years, longtime NBA referee Joey Crawford says he is hanging up his whistle after the season.
"I'm done," Crawford told the Delaware County (Pennsylvania) Daily Times.
Crawford, 64, has been sitting out this season after undergoing knee surgery. He plans to return to the court by March 1 and hopes to referee through the playoffs.
"There's nothing to be sorry about. You know what happens? It's not that you lose your passion. I have that. That's insanity," Crawford told the newspaper. "But it just comes to the point where you say, 'I don't want to make a fool out of myself.' And it's been so good that I want to go out on a high note. I don't want to go out on a low note. I want to be in the NBA Finals, and I don't want to be reffing just for the sake of reffing."
Crawford has been an NBA referee since 1977. He has officiated 313 postseason games, most of any active ref, including 50 NBA Finals games.
In April 2007, Crawford was suspended for the rest of the regular season and playoffs after ejecting San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan from a regular-season game against the Mavericks for laughing on the bench. In a statement released by the NBA after the suspension, then-commissioner David Stern said Crawford "failed to meet the standards of professionalism and game management."
"I learned a lot from it," Crawford told the Daily Times of the experience. "It made me a better ref. Thank God that David Stern brought me back. But I learned a lot from it."
Crawford received the Golden Whistle Award from the National Association of Sports Officials in 2014, the highest honor for a referee.
"It has been a good run," he said.