11 years after it happened, former NBA referee Joey Crawford addressed his on-court incident with San Antonio Spurs legend Tim Duncan.
Aside from the 2018 offseason’s events, the San Antonio Spurs usually stayed quiet on and off the court, in season and out of season. Especially through the 20-year run of sound playoff basketball and five championships, this organization thrived on systematic success that never came into question.
In one instance, in a 2007 game against the Dallas Mavericks, everything was not quiet. Due to an incident between referee Joey Crawford and Tim Duncan, it turned one night upside down.
In a piece on the life of an NBA referee, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan spoke to Crawford, who recalled the game, where he ejected Duncan for laughing on the bench. Safe to say he was not fond of the Big Fundamental’s actions:
The Duncan incident was in 2007. 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.
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Afterward, Crawford said he spoke to then-NBA commissioner David Stern, and it featured a heated discussion between the two sides on the incident:
I just stood there and took it. Before I went up there, our union rep told me, ‘Joey, no matter what [Stern] says, just stand there and be quiet.’ So, Stern’s killing me, I’m saying, ‘He’s right, he’s right,’ but then finally I said, ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute. What did you want me to do? Wait until Nellie called me a f—ing a–h— and then throw him?’ and Stern said, ‘Yes! Then at least I could have defended you, you moron!’ Stern told me, ‘Don’t ever do that again,’ and I said, ‘OK,’ but then, of course, I did.
The situation started when Duncan was called for an offensive foul, and he glared at a referee with a confused look.
Shortly after, a foul was called on the Spurs again, which sent the Mavericks to the free throw line. After the successful free throw, Crawford blew his whistle and signaled a technical foul on Duncan, who was on the bench and reacted to the offensive foul on him and the ensuing foul on his teammate.
On the bench, Duncan smirked and laughed while playfully clapped his hands at the call. Minutes later, after a blocking foul on the Spurs, Duncan hysterically laughed on the bench and found himself ejected by Crawford, who handed him a second technical foul.
After the conversation with Stern, Crawford was suspended for the rest of the season.
11 years later, this remains one of the most controversial calls in recent Spurs history, albeit a memorable instance. Crawford and Duncan have since retired.