Steve Javie retiring as NBA referee

Updated: September 16, 2011, 1:58 PM ET
By Ric Bucher | ESPN The Magazine

Although NBA referees, after agreeing to a new five-year contract earlier this week, are assured of returning whenever the league resumes play, veteran Steve Javie will not be among them.

Javie, rated as one of the league's top officials during the past 15 years, is retiring because of an arthritic right knee.

[+] EnlargeSteve Javie
Garrett Ellwood/Getty ImagesSteve Javie, one of the NBA's top officials, won't return due to a bad knee.

The injury forced him to miss the end of the 2009-2010 season, but he returned last fall with the hope of making it to the 25-year mark as an NBA referee.

He accomplished that, but filed his retirement papers when the pain in his right knee and his doctors convinced him a 26th year was not realistic.

An NBA referee must submit his papers within 30 days of the last Finals game if he does not plan to return.

Javie worked both Games 1 and 6 of the 2011 Finals, making him one of six referees to officiate two games. It is an honor reserved for the league's highest-rated referees and reflects that Javie is going out on top.

"I would like to stay at it and end it on my own terms, but in a way I feel as if I'm doing that in that I got to work that 25th year," he said. "Adrenaline is an amazing drug. The two weeks after the season, the knee was so painful I couldn't believe it. My doctor said it was because the adrenaline from the season had finally worn off. Every time I start to think maybe I still could do it, my knee has let me know, one way or another, that I can't."

Javie's father, Stan, was an NFL field judge and back judge for 29 years and counseled his son that it was better to leave while your work is still respected "than to be one of those guys that hangs on and everybody says it's a shame he's still working, and we have some of those," Javie said.

"I would like to keep a hand in basketball, as a consultant for the NBA or somewhere else, but I also have the foundation that my wife and I started and I'm looking forward to doing more with that," he said.

The Javie Foundation for Charity has been raising money for abused and abandoned kids and homeless men in the Philadelphia area for the past 13 years.

During the previous NBA lockout, in 1999, Javie was one of 15 referees charged with income-tax evasion for downgrading plane tickets provided by the league and not reporting the funds saved. Javie, alone, pleaded not guilty and won his case. "You have to fight for your name," he said at the time.

Bob Delaney, who also reached the 25-year milestone last season, is retiring as well, a decision he announced at the start of last season.

But 71-year-old Dick Bavetta, the league's oldest official, has not filed and apparently plans to return for a 37th season, according to several sources.

Ric Bucher is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

Ric Bucher

NBA Reporter, ESPN The Magazine Senior Writer

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