|06 July 2009|
About 5,283 kilometers and a whole lot of ocean lie between Las Palmas, Gran Canaria and Southern California, USA. It would be a long trip to be sure, but nothing compared to the one Tommy Nunez has been on over the last 37 years.
It was in Southern California in 1972 that Nunez took a friend up on an offer to try out to be an NBA referee. Out of 1,000 applicants 16 people were selected, and Nunez was one of them. He's never looked back.
"I officiated baseball, football and a lot of sports when I was young. So I guess officiating for me, was a vocation until it became a profession." says Nunez who spent last week in Gran Canaria as an observer at the FIBA Europe Potential Referees and National Instructors Meeting.
Nunez retired as an official in 2003, on the same night coincidently as a fairly well known player by the name of Michael Jordan.
"The last game I officiated was Washington versus Philadelphia in April of 2003. This was also Michael Jordan's last game, someone who is probably the greatest player of all time," says Nunez.
"Jordan was a gentleman, a fierce competitor and it was never a problem to referee him for me."
In his retirement Nunez has started a foundation to help disadvantaged children, but he also keeps one foot firmly in the world of refereeing, which is what has brought him to Las Palmas.
"I love being around international basketball and sharing experiences with FIBA Europe referees and staff.
"The level of professionalism is very, very high from what I've seen, the support given to the referee with meetings like this in Gran Canaria are a large part of that."