Ex-NBA ref recalls Larry Bird fighting Julius Erving

erving-vs-bird-fight-1984Long-time NBA referee Dick Bavetta, who has recently retired after 39 years of officiating in the NBA, has recently spoken with NBA.com, touching upon several issues of his career.

Bavetta officiated a record of 2,635 consecutive regular-season games, as well as 270 playoff appearances and 27 Finals games.

His NBA career began on Dec. 2, 1975 — Knicks-Celtics, Madison Square Garden — and in time included three All-Star Games, two Olympics and other international competitions.

Bavetta also did officiating in the Eastern League (CBA precursor) for 9 years, before making it to the NBA. He also worked games at the Rucker League, Jersey Shore Basketball, FIBA and public and Catholic leagues in New York.

Speaking with NBA.com, Bavetta said his most memorable game was on Nov. 9, 1984, when Boston Celtics was hosting the Philadelphia 76ers. That was the night his partner Jack Madden suffered a broken leg in a collision with Celtics guard Dennis Johnson, forcing Bavetta to work alone the rest of the way.

“It turned out to be the game where [Larry] Bird and [Julius] Erving decided to start choking each other,” Bavetta recalled.

Check out the videos of that moment below:



Bavetta ejected them both and also ran off Sixers coach Billy Cunningham, thinking he had picked up a second technical foul. But an earlier one called by Madden had been on Cunningham’s assistant Matt Guokas, so Bavetta sent word to the locker room for Cunningham to return.

“He said, ‘It was bad enough having people pouring beer over my head going off the court. But then I had to have it again coming back on,’ ” the ex-referee recalled.

Bavetta also said that he wished he officiated games in which Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson played.

Bavetta knows so many stories, but thus far he’s in no rush to release a book of memories.

Bavetta said he has no interest in any sort of tell-all memoir to dwell on the controversial calls (Lakers-Kings, game 6, 2002) or characters (disgraced ref Tim Donaghy) he encountered through the years.

“Just all the funny stories,” he said.


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