Former NBA Forward, Current ESPN Analyst Richard Jefferson Serves as a Referee During Summer League Game

by Nick Geddes
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Richard Jefferson is a man of many talents.

A NBA champion, one of ESPN’s basketball aces and now, a referee. Jefferson, who accumulated 2,637 fouls during his 17-year career, had a chance to call some of his own on Monday. Richard Jefferson made his officiating debut during a NBA Summer League game between the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers.

Jefferson, 42, said after the game he has great respect for officials and knows their importance to the game of basketball.

“I didn’t want to do this,” Jefferson said, via ESPN. “The NBA asked would I be interested. I have such a tremendous amount of respect for the referees, how important they are to the game, and I’ve always treated every single one of them as such. I just respect them because I know their importance to our game and to the integrity to our game.”

Richard Jefferson Wants to Grow as a Broadcaster

Jefferson put in 10 minutes of work during the second quarter after going through hours of instruction in preparation for the gig. The terminology, the hand signals – Jefferson had to learn it all by studying other referees. Why would Jefferson do this, you ask?

Well, it’s simple: he wants to learn even more about the game he loves.

“Why do this?” Jefferson wrote on Twitter. “1. Tremendous amount of knowledge about our game that I’ve learned sitting in classes with the best refs in the world 2.I do this because not many people would dare put themselves in this position. The more info I have the more informed I am as a broadcaster.”

Since his retirement from the NBA after the 2017-18 season, Jefferson has been a fixture on ESPN’s programming. He can be found often on shows such as “Get Up!” and “NBA Today,” providing expert analysis on all things NBA. It’s a role Jefferson loves being in, but wants to become even better at. Refereeing, he said, is beneficial to him becoming a more well-rounded analyst.

“It’s been amazing because I love the game of basketball,” Jefferson said. “I like talking about the game of basketball, so now I get an opportunity to learn a whole new piece of the game. That’s like my dream, for a basketball junkie, to sit in there and see how the referees think, how they talk, how they act, how they work together as a team. That type of stuff to me is so beneficial.”