Hwang In-tae became the first Korean to referee in an NBA game on Sunday, appearing as an assistant as the Phoenix Suns took on the Houston Rockets at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Sunday’s game marked Hwang’s first appearance as an assistant referee in an official NBA regular season game, having previously refereed an exhibition game between the Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards on Nov. 10.
Hwang trained as a referee with the Korea Basketball Association in 2004 and worked in the Korean Basketball League from 2008 to 2019, refereeing a total of 466 league games.
He began to gain attention as he was selected by the International Basketball Federation, FIBA, to referee a number of international games, including the final of the women’s competition at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Hwang was scouted by the NBA and invited to take part in the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas in 2017. Following that trip, Hwang was invited to take part in the NBA’s officiating program, moving his family to New Jersey in January, 2020.
Over the last two years, Hwang has built up experience in the G League, the NBA’s minor league, before gaining official NBA referee qualifications.
“The NBA was just my dream,” Hwang told the Associated Press. “I watched it on TV, right? That’s it. I never, ever tried to get into the NBA by myself.”
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]