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THROWBACK: When Tim Duncan Was Ejected For Laughing on the Bench

THROWBACK: When Tim Duncan Was Ejected For Laughing on the Bench

In 2007, veteran NBA referee Joel Crawford ejected Tim Duncan for laughing on the bench. An infamous incident that, to date, rarely gets kind remarks.

Crawford was then a legendary referee who had made 21 consecutive NBA Finals appearances. The streak broke after he blew the whistle on the San Antonio Spurs star, who was laughing.

“Duncan was sitting on the bench laughing. And I threw him. That laugh bothered me. I thought it was incredibly disrespectful. But I knew the minute it happened I was gonna be in trouble,” Crawford said, recalling the incident in an interview with ESPN that looked at the life of an NBA referee.

Crawford had to meet a professional after he ejected Tim Duncan

The NBA commissioner at the time, David Stern, fined Crawford $100k for his decision and suspended him for the rest of the season. And for him to come back the next season, he had to consult a psychiatrist.

Crawford himself admitted that it was necessary to do so. He admitted he had blown the incident out of proportion due to his aggression, and he had to deal with the repercussion.

Crawford, in his words, was “scared to death” while going to the psychiatrist. He was afraid it might end his career. However, after the diagnosis, he felt a little relieved.


“After two hours, he (psychiatrist) says, ‘OK, we’re all done.’ I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! I’m supposed to come another day for another couple of hours. Have you already decided I’m crazy?’ He said, ‘You’re not nuts.’ I said, ‘Well, what am I? What’s my problem?’ He said, ‘You’re overly passionate about your job.’ I thought, ‘OK, I can live with that diagnosis!’” Crawford said.

“The problem was my aggression. I took it to the ninth degree.”

Being an NBA referee is not the easiest of jobs. It demands high levels of concentration. And with what is at stakes, it could many times be a thankless job. The slightest of lapse in concentration could have a tremendous impact on the game.

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