By Alice Barbosa, sportswriter, and Árbitros NBA founder
The NBA announced on Monday (11) that former ESPN player and analyst Richard Jefferson will be on the court today as a referee in a Summer League game in Las Vegas.
According to the league statement, “Richard Jefferson will officiate the second quarter of Monday’s New York vs. Portland game after attending daily NBA Summer League Officiating Meetings in Las Vegas. A former player turned broadcaster for ESPN, Jefferson has experienced how NBA referees prepare for games and execute that knowledge on the court”.
With the NBA increasingly trying to get – and maintain – new audiences, especially among younger age groups, RJ’s endeavor doesn’t seem strange.
However, the Summer League is more than the show of court stars and other celebrities attending rookies’ games – it’s a talent barn for referees. Many professionals on the NBA rosters have already participated in the event. Foreign officials also see the Summer League as an opportunity to show their talent to one of the league’s scouts, referees with more than ten years of experience who watch the games and communicate everything they see to the NBA refereeing coordination.
The newly hired G League referees attend the Summer League and other training to be empowered as new talents for a possible future in the NBA or WNBA.
And the referees who watch the games not only serve as observers but also as mentors. In 2016, Eric Lewis, who currently has 18 seasons in the NBA, was one of the coaches of the Summer League officers. “It’s my job to get them hired. I’m focused on the things I can do to help them improve and get a job,” he told AP at the time.