South Korean man’s dream of becoming NBA referee comes true

South Korean man’s dream of becoming NBA referee comes trueSouth Korean man’s dream of becoming NBA referee comes true
via Intae (left), NBA (right)
Ryan General
October 11, 2023
A South Korean native, who moved his family to the U.S. in 2020 to pursue a career in NBA officiating, has earned a spot in the league’s upcoming 2023-24 season. 
Pursuing the dream: Intae Hwang, 49, took a life-altering leap three years ago, moving his family some 7,000 miles from South Korea to Fort Lee, New Jersey, to fulfill his dream of becoming a basketball referee in the U.S.
His ambition led him to accept an invitation to the NBA’s Referee Development Program, which trains officials for the NBA, WNBA and G League. The program typically takes three years to complete but only took Hwang 18 months to finish. 
Last season, he worked seven games as a non-staff official. He has also worked in the G League, the WNBA, the Summer Olympics and the Basketball World Cup.
A gamble that paid off: While the program didn’t guarantee him a full-time job, he took the risk and is now reaping the rewards. Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s head of referee development and training, commended Hwang’s courage.
“Not everyone is willing to dream big,” he said. “Intae was willing to take a risk on officiating and on the collective happiness of his family. He had the courage to think he could accomplish big things.”
How it started: Hwang’s fascination with officiating started in 2004 with a chance encounter with a local referee, Kirok Shin, while studying at Busan University of Foreign Studies.  
Through hard work and dedication, he eventually became a referee in the Korean Basketball League and caught the attention of FIBA, the world governing body for basketball. The body would later appoint him for the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Not the star: When the upcoming NBA season begins on Oct. 24, Hwang is committed to not being the center of attention and properly officiating the games.
“I’m not a star player,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “I’m not the main actor. I’m not that special. After watching a game, I hope the spectators talk about the plays, the dunks and the three-pointers. My goal is that they don’t mention the referee. I feel good when we finish a game without any yelling.”
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