Suffolk resident officiates in NBA

Published 10:37 pm Friday, November 11, 2016

Suffolk resident Leroy Richardson was convinced he would pursue a full-time career in the Navy. However, several doors opened up for him, which eventually landed him his current job as an NBA referee.

“It wasn’t easy to leave the military,” Richardson said. “I was a career sailor.”

Born in 1964, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native resides in the Riverfront community in North Suffolk. He is the oldest of two, with a younger sister, Margie.

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Richardson graduated from George Westinghouse V & T High School and enlisted into the U.S. Navy soon after in 1982.

He was deployed to Keflavík, Iceland from April 1986 to May 1987. He was also stationed to the Mediterranean from August 1988 to February 1989.

When he returned stateside, he was stationed at Dam Neck. There, he received the 1991 and 1992 Sailor of the Year honors for his command. He was also awarded the Navy Achievement medal and two Good Conduct medals.

“I was highly indebted to the people that worked for me who made me look good,” Richardson said.

During his time as a sailor, Richardson played intramural basketball. He played for another command because his own didn’t have a team.

However, since he was getting more playing time than some of the other players on the team, he was asked to step down. But, Richardson did not allow this to deter his passion for the sport. So, he began to look into officiating.

Richardson also had a passion for football, which he played in his adolescent years. However, he soon learned he preferred to officiate basketball to football.

“Climate control,” he quipped when asked why he stuck to basketball officiating.

Over time, Richardson rose through the officiating ranks. He refereed at the high school level and collegiate level at Southeastern and Big East conference games. He also officiated in the Continental Basketball Association, the NBA’s former minor league.

Richardson thanked his commander for giving him the flexibility to work the basketball games. But, he admitted it was difficult balancing the two.

However, his hard work paid off as local legend Dick Bowie, who worked with a Tidewater basketball officials’ association at the time, began to take notice of Richardson’s skill level.

Eventually, in November of 1995, Richardson was recruited as an NBA referee.

“I felt euphoria — a sense of accomplishment,” Richardson said. “I’m always humbled by what God has done in my life.”

To date, Richardson has officiated more than 1,230 regular season games and eight playoff games during his 20-plus years as an NBA referee.

One of his highlights was refereeing the 2012 NBA All-Star Game.

“It’s a different level,” he said.

However, Richardson said his most memorable officiating experience was a high school tournament game in Northern Virginia.

“There are no perfect games — and I think we had a perfect game,” he said. “People were in shock — it was an awesome experience.”

Richardson and his wife, Mia, have five children, four sons and a daughter.

He joked he was able to influence two of his sons to join the military — however, not the “right” branch, as both decided to join the Army.

“Anybody that serves says it is an honor to serve,” Richardson said. “Having the ability to serve is transformational.”