JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — Jackson native Ed Clarke always knew he wanted to be a sports official.
“My father, who’s deceased, my father used to be a [Mississippi sports] official in high school,” said Clarke. “Now, he did basketball, football, and umpire baseball.”
The Provine High School and Jackson State alum had a nearly two decade career as a referee, a career that ended in the NBA.
“The NBA had what they called the NBA Pro-Am League. So, what I would do on weekends is drive over to Atlanta and referee the NBA Pro-Am league. At that time they had a camp too, which was in May of ’85. The person in charge of the NBA Referees was going to be at that camp and he was looking for people to enter the training program. So I went to the camp and I was one of the people they chose to go to the Summer League in L.A. to start in that training program in the summer of ’85.”
While refereeing the NBA summer league he was able to perfect the mechanics and by 1989 he was promoted to NBA preseason games.
“Knowing the rules of the game is essential, it’s just handling 10 bodies out there on the floor, managing 10 bodies on the floor. Pro players are just like anybody else. They swear they don’t foul anybody when you call a foul on them. They try to work you and the coaches try to work you as well.”
“If they want to ask you a question, you give them an answer. If it’s a statement, a statement doesn’t need a reply. Now when a player crosses that line or if one of the assistant coaches cross the line, you’ll hear it. You’ll pick your spot on the floor and say, ‘look here, the next time you say that it’s going to cost you some money out your pocket and they understand that.”
Today, Clarke – who’s the head football coach and physical education teacher at Hardy Academy — said sometimes it’s hard to watch NBA games.
“A lot of that recall kicks back in when I’m sitting there watching games and stuff like that. And, if I have friends over the house and they’ll be watching it too, they’ll say, ‘what you think, Ed?’ I say, ‘well they’re going to show a replay and you’ll get to see a second look of it.”
And, as for his thoughts on the game of basketball today:
“Trust me, the ’80s and the ’90s was a lot more physical compared to what it is now because the rules have changed. You have to protect your players.”