The final game of the 2021-22 season turned out to be the last in the distinguished career of one of the standard-bearers of Euroleague Basketball's officiating collective.
Veteran referee Luigi Lamonica retires
When he blew his whistle and spread his arms to mark the end of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Championship Game on Sunday in Belgrade, Serbia, veteran referee Luigi Lamonica also was signaling the end to his days of running the court and making sure that the games are played cleanly.
Lamonica, 56, was one of the longest-tenured referees on the continent, with this having been his 21st season in Euroleague Basketball competitions. The Final Four in Belgrade marked the 10th time that Lamonica officiated at the event, more than two decades after first doing so, in 2002 in Bologna, Italy.
"Luigi is well known around Europe by coaches, players and fans and has been at the top of the sport for the last 21 years. I have known Luigi longer and, as well as being an excellent referee, he is, as with most top officials, an excellent person," Richard Stokes, Euroleague Basketball's Senior Director of Officiating, said. "He's always ready to give advice, answer questions, mentor younger officials and spend time with basketball people. It has been a pleasure to have him on our staff and his commitment and dedication to his craft have been outstanding. He has been one of the best European referees of his generation and he will always remain part of the EuroLeague's officiating family."
Having started officiating lower division games in his native Italy in the 1980s, Lamonica was promoted to the Italian top flight in 1993. His first international duty came in 1997. In June of 2019, Lamonica was presented with the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.
Saturday's 57-58 victory by Anadolu Efes Istanbul over Real Madrid was the seventh EuroLeague championship game of Lamonica's career. After serving as crew chief, he revealed that he had blown his whistle for the last time.
"I saw a small group of European teams establishing a new concept of competition on our continent that, year by year, became bigger and bigger, attracting more and more fans and sponsors and not only in Europe, but even worldwide. Now the games are televised on every continent and colleagues from South America, Asia and Oceania look at our games and dream of officiating them. I was able to live that dream for so many years and it made me proud to be one small part of the product," Lamonica said.
"I had an amazing life thanks to officiating and thanks, in particular, to the EuroLeague, which in the last six years, with a real European league, is the strongest and toughest competition in the world after the NBA playoffs."