NBA referee Joey Crawford's final season has come to a premature end following knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Per Steve Aschburner of NBA.com, Crawford's knee has not been healing as quickly as expected after he had a procedure in December to fix the damage.
Crawford, the NBA's best-known referee, announced in January that this would be his final season after 39 years.
In an interview Wednesday with Aschburner, the 64-year-old Crawford said he will miss being around his fellow referees:
You turn the page, y'know, and you think, 'It's somebody else's turn.' But you still miss it. You miss the people. I'm just lucky that a lot of the refs, they'll call me up. I don't know if they do it because they feel sorry for me, but they'll say, 'Can you break down a quarter for me here or a quarter there?'
Yet even with that, Crawford also acknowledged he's been fortunate given the job's physical strain: "I was lucky. For 35 years or so it was only like, a calf [strain] here or there. But the last two years, my 38th and 39th, it just broke down on me. What're ya gonna do? You just move on."
Crawford has been with the NBA since 1977, though it hasn't always been smooth sailing for him. He resigned from the association in July 1998 after he, along with seven other NBA referees, were charged with filing false income tax returns.
However, former NBA Commissioner David Stern reinstated Crawford before the start of the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
In April 2007, Crawford was suspended by the league for the rest of the year and playoffs after he ejected San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan and allegedly threatened to fight the future Hall of Famer.
Yet, even with those low moments, Crawford managed to reach several milestones. He became the fifth referee to appear in 2,000 regular-season games, hitting the mark in 2005, and he worked the NBA Finals every year from 1986 to 2006.
NBA referees are often at their best when no one knows who they are, but Crawford is an exception. He was revered for his work on the court while also displaying some personality at inopportune moments. His legacy is complex, but there's no denying he's one of the most compelling referees in NBA history.