Move over, Cal Ripken Jr. NBA referee Dick Bavetta is here now.
The 74-year-old Bavetta surpassed Ripken's iron man streak of consecutive appearances by officiating his 2,633rd consecutive game Wednesday night. The Brooklyn native was honored before the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets squared off inside Madison Square Garden.
Judging by his comments after the game, Bavetta seemed humbled, appreciative—and ready for his next assignment.
"Well it means that I am here and alive and happy," Bavetta said of the streak, via ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk. "And it doesn't end here as they say. After tonight there is another game. That is what we (do)."
Imagining a septuagenarian trying to keep pace with world-class athletes boggles the mind, until you hear from the man himself. It's almost as if calling an NBA game for him is the break period from his physical training:
The physical endurance isn't the only amazing thing at play here, either. There are so many possible ways this streak could have ended—illness, injury, issues with travel, family emergencies—yet he's persevered through them all.
Not without a few tight squeezes of course, via Youngmisuk:
Bavetta said there were several close calls due to inclement weather that could have interrupted his streak. Bavetta said NBA officials work 82 games a season -- averaging about 12 games a month -- and make all their own travel arrangements, which are paid for by the NBA.
So when there have been airport closings due to bad weather, Bavetta and his officiating crew have often rented cars to drive to the next city. He told stories of driving for several hours from Chicago to Detroit overnight in treacherous weather and driving from Toronto to Cleveland on the morning of a game as well due to flight cancellations.
Bavetta has become a familiar face, not just for the amount of games he's officiated but for the quality of the matchups. Per Youngmisuk, Bavetta has called 270 playoff games, 27 NBA Finals games and three All-Star Games.
If the most casual fans don't recognize the name, he's the referee who raced—and kissed—Charles Barkley at All-Star weekend in 2007.
So, what's the key to the ref's longevity? Well, a lot of it comes down to work ethic and an inherent responsibility he feels toward his whistle-blowing peers.
"It's just inbred in us that we don't want to miss a game," Bavetta said, via Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. "I've always felt that when I miss a game, I'm imposing upon someone that's home with his family, that already has made plans for the weekend or something."
And a big credit, which Bavetta extended himself, goes to his family.
"You have to have a family that is supportive of you," he said, via Youngmisuk, "a wife that understands that you are going to miss a birthday here or there and daughters that understand that a prom may be missed or something like that."
Because they know, just like the rest of us, that Bavetta is not going to miss a game. He never has before, and he probably never will.
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