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Don’t mess with this 86-year-old ref. He’s got more years of reffing behind him than you have years of life!
Millard Bates arrives a half-hour before tipoff, setting his duffel bag at the end of the bench. He chats with the coaches, league officials, scorekeepers and his partner, even a couple of fans sitting across the court in the bleachers.
He’s a local celebrity, as far as basketball referees go.
After making the rounds, he sheds his coat and tugs at his whistle. It’s game time.
Moments later, he’s racing down the court to keep up with the players, middle school boys in this case, anticipating the action so he can be in position to make split-second calls.
Bates didn’t warm up or bother stretching because he’s in good shape. For an 86-year-old, he’s in great shape.
“Obviously, I get lots of exercise refereeing,” he says. “When I don’t have a game, I walk every day, sometimes jog, and I’m a little careful about eating.”
Bates has been officiating for 65 years, spanning three generations of basketball players.