By John Lynds
NBA referees Bill Spooner and Aaron Smith stopped by the Donald McKay School last Thursday to take part in the TIMEOUT for Reading program, a collaboration between Scholastic and the National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA).
Through this program, NBA referees volunteer their time to act as mentors, stressing the importance of literacy in their personal and professional lives. Both Spooner and Smith commit one hour, once a month, to visit classrooms and promote literacy by reading to students in NBA cities across the country.
“This is our fourth year with the program,” said McKay Principal Jordan Weymer. “It’s an incredible program. The students love it, and the refs are always excited to visit. Students receive free books from Scholastic, and they always prepare some great questions for the refs.”
While the program provide opportunities for the refs to give back to the community in various NBA cities, Weymer said for his students at the McKay the program provides students with exposure and opportunities to careers and individuals who have reached a high-level of success.
The two NBA refs spent the morning with McKay students reading Mike Lupica’s young adult novel ‘Heat’. The novel follows a 12-year-old Little League pitcher from the South Bronx whom other coaches suspect is older because he is too good. With no parents, and a birth certificate back at his native home Cuba, Michael will have to somehow prove with the help of his best friend, Manny, and his brother Carlos that he really is the age that he says.
Spooner and Smith commented that although there are many enjoyable aspects to their participation in TIMEOUT for Reading, their overwhelming favorite would be the feeling of contribution towards educating youth.
“With specific regard to being a referee, reading allows me to study the rules, do research on the teams/players and learn new skills that may be beneficial to my performance,” said Spooner.
Smith added that reading has always impacted his life in a positive way.
Throughout the program both Spooner and Smith said reading is probably the most important skill there is, not just as an NBA referee, but as a human being.
Spooner and Smith were in town as official referees for the Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers game Thursday night.
Over the past 29 seasons Spooner has worked 1,425 regular season games and 102 playoff games. In addition to his NBA experience, Spooner has seven years of collegiate officiating experience in the Pac-10, Big West and West Coast Conferences. He also has eight years of high school officiating experience in his home state of California. Spooner played football at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif. Spooner’s interests include playing golf and cooking.
Smith is entering his second season as an NBA Referee. Prior to being hired in the NBA, Smith officiated in the NBA D-League for four seasons, including the 2015 and 2016 D-League Playoffs and the 2016 D-League Finals. He also worked the 2016 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game and the 2016 NBA D-League All Star Game, both held in Toronto, Canada. Additionally, from 2013-2016, Smith worked as a member of the WNBA officiating staff. At the college level, he worked for four seasons in the Big South Conference, including the conference championship game in 2016. Smith graduated from West Chester University in 2010 with a B.A. in History. While at West Chester he played one season of varsity basketball. Prior to refereeing full time, he worked as a substitute teacher at the high school and middle school levels and worked for three years as a support staff member for a cyber charter school.