During Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and the Trail Blazers, the NBA Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, is relatively quiet.
On any given night in the regular season, current and former officials converge to watch multiple live games on the room’s more than 100 TV screens and computer monitors. With only four teams remaining in the playoffs, all eyes are on the Warriors and Blazers.
One of those observers is Steve Javie, a former NBA referee of 25 years and current ESPN officiating analyst since 2012. Front Office Sports has a front row seat for his process.
Throughout the playoffs and select regular season games, Javie is on-call in Secaucus. When on-court officials are reviewing a controversial call, Javie jumps on ESPN, offering explanations and rule clarifications.
“It’s a good thing with ESPN because it gives another perspective, and I know the [broadcasters] I work with like Mike Breen and Jeff [Van Gundy] and Mark [Jackson], they’re knowledgeable, but you still want an opinion of someone who’s been on the floor,” Javie says. “They might disagree with me, and they do at times, but at least I can give that opinion or how it feels to be on the floor or what the officials are thinking or looking at right now in order to make this crucial call.”
The Replay Center is used to provide different camera angles to the on-site officials for courtside reviews. With a twist of a knob and a push of a button, operators can select the best angles and queue up any sequence from game action.
Just like the referees and operators in the room, Javie sits at one of the room’s 20 stations where he rewinds and rewatches plays from nine different angles. At his station, he keeps Altoids, a cup of water, a notepad and a current NBA rulebook. He preps by writing down talking points, relevant rules and potentially controversial calls.
When the ESPN crew wants his opinion, he’ll get word from on-site producer Tim Corrigan. Javie then spins around in his chair to face the camera. Most calls that require explanations are subjective, such as the severity of a flagrant foul or judging between a block or charge.
“Steve’s officiating experience and knowledge brings yet another layer of expertise to our broadcasts as we document the biggest NBA games for fans,” Corrigan, officially senior coordinating producer for ESPN NBA, says. “We always try to entertain and inform our audience, and Steve helps us achieve that goal.”
Javie started working out of the Replay Center when it opened in 2014. Although he is one of a few media members with regular access to the Replay Center, Javie considers himself more of a referee than reporter. A quarter-century in officiating made him an eternal part of the refereeing fraternity.
“Once an official, always an official,” he says.“That doesn’t mean I won’t comment on situations I believe I would handle it this way, which may be differently than the way they handled it on the floor, because it is really subjective.
“It’s almost like a father watching their kids because a lot of the guys I mentored are refereeing now, and you want them to do well, so when things go a little off, my insides turn,” he adds. “If that was me on the court, I wouldn’t care because I know I could handle it, but when you see your kids, as I call it, that you’ve raised, and you see them get into situations, you just hope they get out of it okay.”
This year, Javie’s role with ESPN may be even more useful than before. The season has been full of debate regarding officiating and the tumultuous relationship between referees and players.
Take the Western Conference Semifinals, for example, when everyone from fans to players to GMs chimed in on James Harden’s foul-drawing playing style.
But Javie embraces the opportunity to be a voice of reason and provide clarification to viewers, who otherwise have no access to the officiating thought process.
“I think it’s really good for the league and for the referees, that the referee has a voice there that can explain it because so many times, I think the fans can be misled,” he says.
Although Game 2 featured a tight, three-point win by the Warriors, the matchup was clean and uncontentious. As a result, Javie wasn’t called on by ESPN to share his input, but he stayed focused and alert throughout the evening.
For Javie, the rest of the playoffs will be no different, as he remains ready to share his expertise at a moment’s notice, notepad, rulebook and Altoids on call.