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NBA referee Dick Bavetta claims accountability and scrutiny are officiating’s biggest changes

Dick Bavetta

Bavetta shares how things have changed in the NBA in terms of officiating

The game has changed from how it was played in the 80s, 90s, and 00s, and along with it, the changes in rules. NBA GOAT referee Dick Bavetta is retired now, but he shared the crucial changes in officiating from then to now.

Technology is necessary 

Bavetta officiated 2,635 straight games in his 39-year career. If that record doesn’t make him the NBA referee GOAT, then we don’t know what else will. The record was a testament to his dedication and discipline. Refereeing a game takes so much more than being physically ready. You have to be in top shape mentally and emotionally at the same time. Split-second decisions change the outcome of the game. Refereeing that many games without missing any is proof that Bavetta remained objective in his work that almost spanned four decades.

In an old interview with USA Today’s Roscoe Nance, Dick shared what he thinks are the biggest changes in officiating games now compared to back then.

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"Where it has changed is in the accountability and the scrutiny that we're now under. We carry a BlackBerrry. We have a laptop. We do daily testing. We do daily meetings. We do tape sessions. After the game, we're required to go back to our hotel and watch the same game we just refereed and submit a game report, submit a game summary, which is inclusive of critical plays in the game, pertinent plays, plays that we were not satisfied with. Years ago, that never happened."

The interview was published in 2006, hence the Blackberry reference. Fast forward to today, and technology has been an integral part of making the job of referees as accurate as possible. Now, video replays are possible, and teams can file a report with the NBA if they have enough evidence that there is indeed a lapse on the part of game officials. The refs are also going to be fined or suspended for their actions, a stark contrast to how, in Bavetta’s time, they would only send handwritten letters in an envelope. But has technology really made it easier to officiate a game?

Players help evolve game rules

One of the most controversial rule changes this year is how the referees call offensive fouls when a player launches himself into the way of defenders. Basically, this is to discourage players from fishing for fouls or flopping in order to get calls. In recent seasons, the fouls would result in free throws, which awarded unfair advantages to teams or made the game longer. 

Flopping to get calls would have been a no-no in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s. It may be a basketball move but when a player uses a non-basketball move regularly, it changes how the game is played. It makes it worse rather than better. This proves that technology is not the only factor behind radical changes in officiating. The players’ moves or decisions on the court and how they see loopholes to their advantage are also crucial factors in how games are being officiated today. 

Kudos to Bavetta and those referees who walked so game officials with their tech gadgets could run in today's NBA.

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