Cal Ripken Jr.'s ironman streak has finally been broken, and not by a baseball player. Or an athlete in any sport.
No, it is longtime NBA referee Dick Bavetta who has surpassed Ripken in consecutive games. Bavetta, who has not missed an assignment since 1974, officiated his 2,633rd consecutive game this week. Ripken's famous streak ended at 2,632 games in 1998.
Bavetta, 74, was honored by the NBA before Wednesday's Brooklyn Nets-New York Knicks game.
"Well it means that I am here and alive and happy," Bavetta said of his streak. "And it doesn't end here as they say. After tonight there is another game. That is what we (do). I am just blessed that the ironman streak has been broken here (at Madison Square Garden), I couldn't ask for something any better."
Bavetta has overcome his share of obstacles to make it 40 years without missing a game. Flight cancellations due to weather meant Bavetta sometimes had to rent cars to drive from city to city. Once he was even punched in the nose while trying to break up a fight between Jalen Rose and Patrick Ewing at Madison Square Garden. The next night he worked a Nets game.
NBA refs work 82 games each year, averaging about 12 a month. So Bavetta, who is already a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame, has been officiating games since before nearly all of the current NBA players were born. He has worked 270 playoff games, 27 NBA Finals games as well as the 1992 Summer Olympics.