Showing Up Is 80 Percent Of Life: A Tribute To Dick Bavetta

There are a lot of famous inspirational people, whether actors, self-made millionaires, athletes, or coaches, or any number of successful people.

Sometimes, though, some people’s stories slip under the radar. And they are just as inspirational, sometimes moreso. Here’s the story of Dick Bavetta and his commitment to excellence.


Woody Allen once said: “Showing up is 80 percent of life.”

One example many people know is Major League Baseball’s ironman Cal Ripken, Jr

And of course his 2,632 consecutive appearances in MLB games over the span of 16 years before deciding to sit out a game, ending his streak.

Very admirable, and Ripken is quoted as saying:

“I guess I just want to say it was time. Baseball has always been a team game, and I’ve always thought the focus should be on team. “

Now that we have that in context…

What about another professional sport where someone never missed a game his entire career? That would be 2,635 consecutive games (three more than Cal Ripken). And he did it over a span of 39 years, from 1975 to 2014. With the streak ending due to retirement.

This would be NBA referee Dick Bavetta, who retired yesterday August 19, 2014

Officially hired by the NBA in 1975, his career spans 39 years, referring a record 2,635 games and never missing an assignment. Perfect attendance. Over the course of 39 years.

He retires at the young age of 74 years.

Having never missed an assignment for 39 years. That definitely is something to respect, and as our friend Woody Allen alludes to, a lot of life is just showing up.


Commitment To Excellence

However, “showing up” wasn’t good enough for Dick Bavetta. He wanted to be great and what he did. And you have to think: this isn’t for fame. This isn’t for notoriety. Who even notices a referee anyway except to yell at him for making the wrong call?

If you really think about it, as a referee.. you just get plained yelled at.


  • You get yelled at by coaches
  • You get yelled at by athletes
  • You get yelled at by fans
  • You are only noticed when you do something wrong

If there ever was a thankless job, it is that of a referee or umpire.

Which only lends even more to the inspiration that Dick Bavetta is. He did it because he loved it, and he wanted to be great at it.


It wasn’t always easy…

While his career spanned 39 years, it wasn’t always rosy.

  • Bavetta first tried out in the mid-1960′s and was routinely rejected by the NBA for nine straight years. Supposedly his physique was too small and unimposing
  • After finally getting accepted by the NBA, for his first ten years he was constantly ranked bottom in performance evaluations among NBA referees
  • To improve at his job, he took to referring summer pro league games in New Jersey and Harlem. He soon became one of the best referees
  • In 1983, he became the first referee to start a rigorous physical training program to keep up with running up and down a court all night.
  • He had to get into it with men much bigger and stronger than he was. In 1999, he was punched in the nose by Pacers forward Jalen Rose (who was attempting to punch Knicks center Patrick Ewing). Bavetta continued to referee the game and got surgery later in the day. He was back on court the next day to officiate his next assignment


Running With Gramps

When all is said and done, if you think about it, here is a man old enough to be a grandpa to these athletes at the highest level, and here he is running up and down a court night in and night out, keeping pace with them.


Kevin Durant.





And there are no “referee” substitutions either.


Dick Bavetta’s Secrets to Longevity

In 2006, when he set the new league record of 2,135 NBA games, he said his secret to longevity was “wearing five pairs of socks” which he says kept his feet in good shape.



I do kind of chuckle at this because I can imagine a young Dick Bavetta rolling up his five pairs of socks over his young and strong feet, while his peers might look at him wondering whatever is he doing?

And then flash forwarding 39 years and seeing the feet of his peers weathered and worn, while Dick is just whistling away continuing to roll up his five pairs over his old but still strong feet.

But the secret to longevity…. SOCKS?

Dick Bavetta also admits..

He runs every day: five to eight miles.

He still takes three hour naps daily as well.

If you think about that, those are actually some mighty fine tips.

The takeaways: Dick Bavetta’s Secrets To Success…

If we read into this a bit, we can generalize his secrets to longevity and success to just about any hobby, passion, career, or undertaking.

  1. Make a commitment to putting in the grunt work every day
    (Dick’s running five to eight miles every day)

  2. Make sure to balance that with relaxation, meditation, and thought
    (Dick’s three hour naps every day)

  3. Details you pay attention to today will pay dividends tomorrow
    (Dick’s wearing five pairs of socks)

  4. You only fail if you quit
    (Dick’s application was rejected for nine years before getting the job as NBA ref)

  5. Continue to learn and evolve
    (Dick studying the NBA rule book, reffing summer leagues, starting a physical fitness regiment)

  6. And of course…. SHOW UP!

Congrats to Dick Bavetta on his 39 year career and commitment to excellence and showing us all just how to continue to show up.


Empowerment and Success, Wealth, Health, And Happiness

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