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Haywoode Workman

When NBA referee Haywoode Workman called fouls on Vince Carter, his former Toronto Raptors teammate, and Ray Allen, his former Milwaukee Bucks teammate, their response was pretty much the same:

C'mon, 'Woode! Man, you played. That wasn't a foul!

"They were pissed off," Workman said, laughing. "I had to tell them, 'Hey, I'm on the other side now.'"

In the history of the NBA, only three players -- Bernie Fryer, Leon Wood and Workman -- have gone from player to referee. And Workman had the longest and most recent playing career.

Haywoode Workman: Suns-Knicks

From 1989 to 2000, Workman, a point guard, played eight NBA seasons, most notably four with the Indiana Pacers for whom he started 72 games and twice reached the Eastern Conference Finals alongside Reggie Miller.

"That's pretty dope to have somebody on the (officiating staff) who played the game," said Chicago Bulls point guard Kris Dunn upon being informed of Workman's NBA playing career. "So it's not like he's just out there watching. He has the knowledge for real."

Workman became an official because it allowed him to stay around the game while having greater job security than coaches or executives, who are hired and often quickly fired. He also has more control than those in other NBA jobs.

"No one can make me blow the whistle or not blow the whistle," he said. "I like it."

As a bonus, he likes that the job forces him to stay in shape. He must run down the court and keep pace with some of the greatest athletes in the world.

The NBA mandates that every official maintain a certain weight, and for the 6-2 Workman, that amount is 215 pounds, though he admits there is a bit of latitude given.

Haywoode Workman, Jason Kidd

"They give you a little here and there," he said.

Having played in 41 playoff games, including the memorable seven-game 1994 Eastern Conference Finals versus the New York Knicks, in which he started all but one game, Workman knows what it's like to have the whistle blown in his direction.

"I don't remember Haywoode being a guy that was overreacting to calls or getting upset or would come and argue with you," said Bob Delaney, an NBA referee from 1987 to 2011. "He kind of would look at you and go about his business out on the floor -- kind of the way he is today ... He's not an excitable person. So he stays even, and staying even is important in our business."

As part of his current business, Workman officiated Kobe Bryant's last game when the retiring superstar capped his Los Angeles Lakers career and the 2016 regular season by scoring 60 points.

Whether it's the first or last game of a season, Workman uses his experience as a player to recognize a play or anticipate where a player will take his shot, so he knows where to move on the court. And he remembers what fouls were called against him.

Haywoode Workman

"It should help," Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "You've been in the trenches. You see how fast they move, see the tricks of the trade that guys get away with and you know what to look for."

The 38-year-old Haslem, a Heat fan growing up, doesn't remember watching Workman play, though he was aware of his background. Drafted in the second round out of Oral Roberts by the Atlanta Hawks, Workman said that many NBA coaches and general managers, who are Haslem's age or older, recall his playing days, but many of the current players do not.

So when he meets rookies, he often informs them of his own past by busting their chops during warm-ups. He asks them if they knew he played in the NBA.

"How are you an NBA player and you don't know that?" Workman jokes to them. "Go talk to your veterans."

Several veterans, like Heat forward James Johnson, did not express interest in following Workman's unique career path but understood why he became an official.

"If you love the game like how we all do, you want to stay in the game as long as you can," Johnson said. "I don't think it's weird; I think it's a passion."


Every summer former NBA players Robert Parish and Clifford Ray held a skills camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Training would go on during the day, and pros, including Chauncey Billups and Al Harrington, would scrimmage in the late afternoon.

To bring some semblance of order to the scrimmages, which had become intensely competitive, IMG brought in Delaney in 2003.

Haywoode Workman

But Delaney quickly realized he needed more than one person to control the games, so he asked Workman, a fellow Floridian who was working out at IMG, to help him officiate.

"Hey, you can't stop anybody. You can't go by anybody anymore," Delaney said. "So why don't you give me a hand refereeing this game?"

After the scrimmages they met in the gym. Delaney suggested to Workman that he would make a great official. He also explained positioning and how to see the game as a referee.

"That was the genesis of Haywoode Workman's entry into officiating," said Delaney, who is now a special advisor for SEC officials.

In the summer of 2004, Workman officiated in the NBA Summer League and the Drew League. Then he was hired into the CBA while also officiating middle school girls games in Tampa, which he did for two years.

After one year in the CBA, he moved to the D-League (now called the G League) for the 2005 season. In 2008 Workman, who played on five different NBA teams, received the phone call from the NBA telling him he was hired to become a league official.

"It was like making another team basically," Workman said.

Haywoode Workman, LaMarcus Aldridge

Making that new team brought him into an exclusive trinity of NBA players-turned-referees. Workman didn't speak to Fryer or Wood, an active official, before joining their fraternity. But during Workman's first year as an NBA referee, Fryer was the director of officials, and Workman half-jokingly tried to convince him to referee a game, so all three could be on the court at the same time.

Delaney also has a unique connection to Workman. Delaney officiated Workman's games during the latter's playing days, officiated alongside him as a referee and supervised the young referee during his tenure as director of officals.

Most importantly, he helped Workman get a start on his second NBA career.

"I do take pride," Delaney said.


When assigned to one of Carter's Hawks' games, Workman still chats with the longtime pro. Most of the discussion now revolves around Haywoode's son, Bryce, a 6-8 freshman power forward at Jacksonville University, which is less than 100 miles from where Carter grew up in Daytona Beach.

The 42-year-old Carter is close to retirement. Why don't more NBA players become referees after their careers end? Delaney said they don't want to take the abuse.

A reporter asked Heat guard Dion Waiters if he would consider a career as an official down the line.

"Hell, no," Waiters said. "That's a tough job. They make tough calls ... You've got so many guys, egos."

Like Waiters, Bulls guard Ryan Arcidiacono hasn't run into fellow players who want to become referees.

"People see how much refs get scrutinized -- whether it's the NBA game or college game," Arcidiacono said. "And they want to stay away from it."

But there are some exceptions. Former Boston Celtics player Don Nelson looked into it, but opted for coaching. One of Nelson's former Dallas Mavericks players, Erick Strickland, is officiating high school and small colleges. Washington Wizards forward Jabari Parker said one of his former Bucks teammates, O.J. Mayo, expressed interest as well.

Haywoode Workman

Workman, 53, plans to referee until he's 60, and he hopes other former NBA players join him.

During Bryce's AAU days, Haywoode made sure to mention that job option to the young players.

"You can have a nice career as an official," he said.

After they finish playing for a basketball team, perhaps they can join Workman's new NBA team.

"People forget that we all work for the same company," Workman said. "So the players get the same memo that I get. I'm just the one that has to enforce it. But it's not a bad gig. Everybody can't have a long career.

"Everybody can't be LeBron James."

-- Follow Jeff Fedotin on Twitter @JFedotin.