LAS VEGAS — Richard Jefferson was called for 2,637 fouls in his playing career, along with 45 technicals. He fouled out of 14 games. He even got ejected twice.
He always suspected referees didn’t have an easy job.
He’s now certain they don’t.
Jefferson, who played 17 seasons in the NBA and now works as an analyst for ESPN, was making his officiating debut at summer league on Monday night in Las Vegas. He worked the second quarter of a game between the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers.
“I didn’t want to do this,” Jefferson said. “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.”
This was not some honorary assignment. The NBA put Jefferson to work to get him ready.
He’s gone through hours of instruction for this 10-minute gig, studying video with other referees and NBA executives. He has been learning the terminology that referees use, along with the responsibilities that come with working each of the three positions on the officiating crew.
Jefferson said he’s certain the experience will make him a better 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.”
This story originally Appeared on ESPN