Former referee Lee Jones receives inaugural Greg Willard Spirit Award

NEW YORK – Former NBA referee Lee Jones has been named the inaugural winner of the Greg Willard Spirit Award, which recognizes a current or former official for his service, professionalism and leadership.

Jones, an NBA referee for 25 seasons from 1971-1996, officiated 1,749 regular-season games and 71 playoff games.  He also worked the NBA All-Star Game in 1977 and 1991.

Jointly sponsored by the NBA and the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA), the newly introduced annual award honors the memory and legacy of former NBA referee Greg Willard, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2013 at the age of 54.  Willard officiated 1,494 regular-season games, 136 playoff games and the 2006 NBA All-Star Game during his 25-year career.

“Lee’s distinguished career as an NBA referee makes him a deserving winner of this special award,” said Bob Delaney, NBA Vice President, Referee Operations/Director of Officials.  “I have known Lee for 30 years and while he was a great official, he is an even better person.”

“We are pleased that Lee has been selected as the first recipient of the Greg Willard Award Spirit Award,” said NBRA board member and longtime NBA referee James Capers. “Like Greg, Lee embodied the values of an NBA referee – integrity, professionalism and dedication to his craft.”

The Greg Willard Spirit Award was presented at the NBA referees’ preseason meetings this week.