The Time Tim Donaghy Punched Out Joey Crawford

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The Oregonian's John Canzano published the last of his five-part series on the state of NBA officiating last week, and he saved one of his juiciest anecdotes for last.

Here's Canzano describing a 2001 meeting of all the league's referees that featured now-disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy doing something that every NBA fan has fantasized about: dropping fellow referee Joey Crawford with a left hook:

According to witnesses, Crawford yelled, "Let's go! Meeting's (expletive) starting!" Donaghy ignored him, pretending not to hear. Crawford again raised his voice, and again Donaghy pretended not to hear him.

"I'll admit," Donaghy said. "I was being a (jerk). Joe and I had been good friends, but we were arguing on this issue. We didn't see eye to eye and we'd had a bad argument on the telephone about it in which one of us hung up."

Crawford apparently had enough of the disrespect. He walked up to Donaghy and slapped him across the face. The left-handed Donaghy took one step back, wound up, and dropped Joe Crawford with a left hook.

Crawford spent the rest of the meeting with a bag of ice on his eye.

We called up Donaghy to see if he had any more details to fill in, and to find out exactly what a Joey Crawford slap feels like. "I wouldn't say it was the hardest slap," said Donaghy. "But he wasn't being gentle. I'd describe it as a bitch slap. You know, how people sometimes call it."


And how does it feel to punch the most hated referee in the NBA? "He went down like a ton of bricks. I will say that he has a rock-hard head, though. It felt like he had steel plates in there or something. And I give him credit, because he popped back up and was ready to go."

Donaghy told us that he wanted to finish the fight when the two got into the meeting room—"I walked right up to him and said, 'You're a piece of shit, let's finish this right here,'" he says—but was dissuaded by former NBA player Bob Lanier, who told him that he should suck it up and apologize.


As for the argument that precipitated the fight, Donaghy told us they were arguing about Howard Pearl. That would be the former general counsel for the referees union whom "everyone hated," according to Donaghy, and whom Crawford always stuck up for because he had helped Crawford with his tax evasion case.