In addition to being a great player while at Arizona, Richard Jefferson is one of the biggest personalities to have ever come through the men’s basketball program. This was evident during his college and NBA careers, as well as since his retirement as he’s moved to the broadcasting side of the game.
But on Monday night RJ was back in uniform, donning the gray top and black pants of a referee during the second quarter of an NBA Summer League game between the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers. And not surprisingly, it was thoroughly entertaining.
The 42-year-old Jefferson, who works for ESPN, was mic’d up for his 10-minute stint as an official, leading to some great exchanges. That included his first-ever call, an out-of-bounds play where he initially ruled in favor of the Knicks only to have to (rightly) switch to the Blazers after conferring with the other officials.
Afterward, Jefferson told reporters—including the Arizona Daily Star’s Justin Spears—he had great respect for officials even before giving it a shot on his own.
“Anybody that wants to criticize the officials, just go referee a high school game first and then you might look at it a little different,” said Jefferson, who said this was the first time he’d been running up and down an NBA court since retiring in 2018.
Jefferson, who played for the UA from 1998-2001 before getting drafted 13th overall by the Houston Rockets, said his history playing for the now-Brooklyn Nets made officiating a game involving the Knicks very interesting. He heard everything they had to say.
“And normally I’m able to say stuff back, which was the hardest part,” he said.
For those who care, the Blazers outscored the Knicks 28-12 during Jefferson’s time officiating. Portland won 88-77, with former UA guard Brandon Williams starting and going for 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in 23 minutes.