NBA Finals: NBA Referee, Derrick Stafford Talks Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Shaq


Golden State Warriors, Michael Jordan & more were discussed on Scoop B Radio with retired NBA referee Derrick Stafford. Press Play Below To Listen!

Derrick Stafford spent 30 years as an NBA referee. Now retired and Atlanta-based, he’s got good anecdotes and stories too.

Stafford checked in with the Scoop B Radio Podcast and discussed today’s NBA vs. the 90s and 2000s.

Press play above to listen to the entire podcast. Also check out an abridged version of our Recent Q & A below.


Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: For me, I know that as a journalist sometimes I look at the sideline reporter and say that was a good question or that was a bad question. From your perspective as a referee you’ve been doing it for over 30 years. For someone like yourself is it hard to sit back and actually be fan of the game? When you see stuff that is off or good. Is it hard to separate being a referee with being a fan?
Derrick Stafford: When you’re a referee you’re strictly going look at the game from that perspective. You’re trying to see the plays they missed and why they missed that play. The plays they got right, you look at situations that come up and how do they handle them. Did they follow the rules did they cheat, did they make a mistake if so what caused it. Right now you might not know the answers to so you’ll go find your rule book to make sure. I think I have the best of both world right now being able to evaluate the guys without being too critical, I don’t want to be that critical. Look at them with an objective eye. I can actually enjoy the beauty of the game seeing players competing, can appreciate the coaches griping and arguing so now I can enjoy it both ways.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: In today’s game it seems like players and referees are arguing more, Do you see a difference now then in comparison to when you were doing the games?
Derrick Stafford: That’s a tough question. Players have always complained to a certain extent. Guys getting technical fouls I don’t know if the technical fouls are up or down. I don’t know the analytics. Social media now, we have people analyzing the game from all over the world. Everybody has a podcast, you have ESPN going full blast. Everybody is looking for something and everything is out there. I think it’s easier in comparison to players in the past. So, I think the complaining is a little bit more, just because of the social attention.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Do you believe that there is a generational gap? I tend to think that millennials be indulged a lot more. Do you think there’s a difference with refs that have been doing it for 30 years, and were refereeing Michael [Jordan] who was quiet and played where everything could be explained to them? Do you see a difference between those two generations?
Derrick Stafford: The training is different. Teacher to student relationship is different. Coach and athlete position is different. When I was in school a janitor might take you in the bathroom and paddle your butt. So, everybody did whatever they could to keep them under control. Kids today are growing to be able to question more, you know I can always remember my teacher saying do this because I said so. That was the end of it, you knew not to ask again and not to do it the next time. But this generation they want to be heard be explained to I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing. To generalized or make a decision on that. But it’s certainly to the point now where everybody wants to be heard.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: When you have a player that is angry. You don’t mix fire with fire, you sort of smooth talk or slowly talk because you the referee hold all the power at the end of the day. Can you think of an example where you’ve had a superstar or player come to you? My question is which player has been the most smooth and airing out how they felt without giving disrespect?
Derrick Stafford: Right off the top of my head, without giving it a whole lot of thought it would probably be [Michael] Jordan. One thing about Mike [Jordan] is that he studied the rules more than anybody. So he knew the rules. Even though he may been a little upset he’ll be asking a question that he would want an answer too. Sometimes he’d know the answer. He was pretty smooth, how he’d approach you right away you knew that he known the rules and you’d give him some more leeway than you would with anybody else because they had no clue about what they were talking about.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Do you think that’s why he gets the characterization that he knew the line where he could win the refs over? And how he’d come about it in a sort of diplomatic way?
Derrick Stafford: Michael [Jordan] didn’t get many technical fouls called. When he wanted one you knew it there wasn’t any question about it. But I will tell people that he got the same treatment as the other great players. Great players don’t really need breaks. It may appear that their getting breaks but they don’t need them. He played through plays, over, under, Mike was just a smart basketball player so. He stayed out of foul trouble, he knew his amount of fouls. He knew when the other team was in the penalty. So he knew a lot of things that other people didn’t know. I would have to sit down with people and show them tape to show them why he didn’t get this or that call. I think they would realize that at the end of the day Michael didn’t get more calls than anybody else he just got the calls that he was supposed to get.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: When you look at the Golden State Warriors: Everybody is playing small ball now. So they’ve dictated how the NBA is going to be played now. Going from the Center position being dominated by Shaq. Going from a point guard league to now just seeing European basketball permeate into the NBA with the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant, what do you from a fan perspective or referee perspective? What stands out to you?

Derrick Stafford: His size and ability to shoot the ball.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: When you look at Golden State at large, do you think that, I guess overall that the big man position will ever be dominant? It seems like now that all big men are “tweeners.” Do you think that we’ll ever back to the day and age of where the big man will be ruling the world how Shaq did?

Derrick Stafford: It’s going to be extremely difficult because so many teams are trying to copy Golden State. So now it’s filtered down to the high schools and the colleges. If you remember when you were probably playing ball everybody took their big guy and put him in the post and start working on those post moves. Well he was stirred to be a low post player. Now in AAU programs, the youth league programs, everybody is learning how to handle the ball, shooting from the outside. So, nobody is really setting the big man down low. I don’t think so, it’s hard to imagine the game going back to where it was. The problem with that is I look at belichick you’ll never worry about him. He’s going to play his game, and I think so many teams and coaches. They copy people, it’s going to be extremely hard to find a team that has the type shooters that Golden State [Warriors] has. The type of niche that they have, the bench that they have and that’s why people have made it a lot easier for them to keep winning because nobody can match them. If you beat Stephen Curry up and put him post up down low, force him to have a center, you would force him to pass the ball in the low post, I mean than they would have to change up some of the things that they do. But most of the teams copy their styles because that’s what they won with. But it’s hard to find a team that can match Steph and Klay. Their two all-time shooters.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: What’s the biggest perk to being a referee?

Derrick Stafford: I don’t know if being recognized all the time is a perk. But yeah, it was a good feeling when they recognize you especially when they understood how tough the game was the night before, hanging in there getting thru it. They give compliments those straight were the perks. Going in the store and maybe somebody recognizing you saying hello maybe you getting a break on something, we also receive those type perks at the level. We not as noticed and actually we really don’t be want to be that noticed.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson (23:47): You’re retired what do you do in your free time now?

Derrick Stafford: I have an office in Atlanta it’s in Riverdale. I try to help younger officials do video work with them. That’s the best teaching tool. Watching tape is the biggest tool you can have. When you can sit down and see what you’re doing that will help you a lot faster. I do work at my church built a brand new gym doing free clinics for the kids. Couple of Saturdays bring in coaches to help with the kids and I’ll get ex-athletes or pros to come in. Once the summer kicks off to do some stuff. I have a studio in my office trying to get kids off the street come in and make music. Get away from the pressure of life. In some peace and quiet environment. I’m staying pretty busy. Play some golf as much as I can.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson (29:24): You giving me the day and the life of a referee. Two of the funniest referees personality that you’ve got the pleasure to work with and why?

Derrick Stafford: That would probably be [Dick] Bavetta. Bavetta because he probably worked on it. I mean he’s a very articulate guy and he’s just one of those people that flashes that type of personality on the floor. He [Bavetta] always kept things funny and comical. That was his way of deflecting pressure. Players were always just so relaxed around him, they knew he worked hard he hustled all game, they liked that about him. But he was also funny, he went out of his way to be funny when most guys don’t. Earl Strome was funny because he had his own unique way of refereeing. He didn’t care about mechanics or the system he did it his way. A lot of time he did things that were hilarious to me nobody else would notice unless they referee but that’s just the guy that Earl was. They both were two of the funniest guys when Daryl sought of took the reign everything was pretty serious. Particularly on the floor, you really don’t get to know many guys, you try to go home and catch up with family, might take a few vacations everybody feel like you’ve been on vacation anyway. You come home and grind it out with your family. Off the surface those two guys were always funny.

Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: You heard it first Derrick Stafford, an honor to have you on the podcast let’s do this again.
Derrick Stafford: Yes we will. Just call me and let me know. I have more free time now so I’ll be more than happy to.


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