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Why Thunder Fans Hate Joe Crawford

by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 6, 2012

I can’t tell you why Thunder heads don’t like referee Joe Crawford.

Maybe it’s the same reason every fan in every sport in every city seems to hate every referee. It’s just a part of sports. You boo the official. You swear him or her. You blame them for blowing calls and costing your team the big game.

But how Crawford became the bane of Thunder heads’ existence is beyond me.

Crawford is the crew chief for tonight’s pivotal Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the Thunder and Spurs. His partners will be Bill Kennedy and Greg Willard. The crew’s alternate is slated to be Rodney Mott. But none of those last three names matter much around here.

It’s Crawford who Thunder fans can’t stand.

The question is why?

There is a widespread belief among NBA fans that if people know a referee’s name, he’s a bad one. And Crawford might be the most well-known NBA ref there is. But the league keeps using him for a reason. He must be doing something right.

Crawford has a reputation for having a short temper with players and coaches and a quick trigger in slapping them with technical fouls. Watch how curt Crawford is while handling conflict on the court and you might be led to believe the 60-year-old is simply grumpy in his old age.

But aside from the sideshow, Crawford hasn’t made any blatantly bad calls against the Thunder that I can remember. The Spurs? Now they’ve got a reason to despise the man. In Oklahoma City, though, Crawford has mostly come in, conducted his business and moved on to the next city without might controversy. Has he missed calls here or there? Of course. Who hasn’t? But the outright hatred for the guy remains a mystery. Thunder fans seem to fear the man. Over the past several weeks, I’ve gotten inquires on the morning of games about who the referees would be that night. When the answer doesn’t involve Crawford the response generally is some form of “Whew!” Whenever Crawford’s name is listed among the trio, the response is some mix of expletives and violence.

“I want to punch Joey in the face,” one of my Twitter followers wrote this morning in reply to my tweet announcing tonight’s crew.

The Thunder’s postseason won-loss record perhaps sheds a sliver of light on the situation.

With Crawford on the court, the Thunder is 2-4 all-time (Oklahoma City era only) in playoff games. Without him, the Thunder is 20-11.


I have no idea.

But if the Thunder loses tonight, there’s no doubt it’ll somehow be Crawford’s fault.


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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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