End of the Road for Dick Bavetta?

by June 07, 2010

For one of the most recognizable (and controversial) refs in sports history, there are not-so-subtle signs that the NBA may be gently pushing him out. The NY Times reports: “Although the league has not announced it, people who have been told of the schedule say that the 70-year-old Bavetta will not work any of the games between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Some of Bavetta’s peers believe that the league is trying to nudge him into retirement. (The referees are prohibited by league rules from speaking on the record.) No one expects Bavetta will walk away, given his headstrong nature, his enduring enthusiasm and his generous base salary, which is believed to be $300,000 to $400,000 a year. The league assigns its best referees to the late playoff rounds, so when someone falls out of the rotation, it is typically an indication that his ranking has slipped. Two other veterans with extensive finals experience are out this year because of injuries: Steve Javie and Mark Wunderlich. An N.B.A. spokesman declined to comment. The league generally does not discuss referee assignments, or their rankings. Bavetta has worked 2,434 games, the most in N.B.A. history, and has never missed an assignment since he joined the league in 1975. He has worked in 27 finals games, and in every championship series from 1990 to 2008. That streak ended last year — a subtle indication that Bavetta was no longer considered among the elite referees. Any ambiguity was erased this spring, when he was not assigned to the conference finals, ending a 20-year streak. Bavetta had worked in every conference finals round since 1989. Working the late rounds brings both prestige and a financial reward. A referee can earn $100,000 to $125,000 for working the finals, and $10,000 to $20,000 extra in the conference finals, according to a person who knows the referee pay scale. As a veteran official, Bavetta’s bonuses would fall in the upper end of the spectrum.”