Although basketball was what Intae Hwang desired to play, his parents wouldn’t allow him to chase his passion. However, he still made it to the NBA. Meanwhile, in pursuit of his ambition to become an NBA referee, Hwang moved to New Jersey with his family from South Korea. Moreover, he is getting close to making that a reality as he handles preseason games, including Monday’s encounter between Washington and Charlotte. Additionally, he is anticipated to work as a non-staff official during the upcoming regular season.
“The NBA was just my dream,” Hwang said in an interview. “I watched it on TV, right? That’s it. I never ever tried to get into the NBA by myself.”
Hwang has been handling basketball matches for almost 20 years. However, it wasn’t always simple, as in 2014, he claimed that a coach head-butted him, which led him to consider his options for the future. Meanwhile, he continued to play, though, and was chosen by FIBA, the Olympic Games’ international refereeing authority, to join the 2016 Rio de Janeiro crew. Moreover, the NBA found him through their talent hunt for refereeing skills worldwide.
Meanwhile, Hwang’s quest started after the NBA invited him to attend the Summer League in Las Vegas in 2017 due to the Rio Games. Meanwhile, after returning to South Korea, the league continued to watch his career and develop a connection with him.
“Intae showed an enormous amount of capacity for quick learning, quick application,” Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s senior vice president overseeing referees, said. “He had a dream to be a part of our program. He came over here and was part of our referee development program, which we used as a way in which he could learn language and culture. He entered our pipeline through merit, not with any promise. He moved over here without any promise.”
In January 2020, Hwang and his family emigrated to the US. Meanwhile, weeks later, the COVID-19 epidemic broke out. However, Hwang, who embodies positivity, saw that as an opportunity to study the G League and NBA games. Moreover, he continued to improve his mastery of English during those months without playing basketball. Meanwhile, he has worked as a G League official and has some NBA preseason experience, and is on a trajectory to become a fully qualified NBA official.
“All he did was put in the work, day in and day out,” said McCutchen.
Hwang Loves Basketball
Referees must make judgments in a split second. Therefore, Hwang needed little time to decide after receiving the NBA’s offer.
“I just worried about my family, my wife and my son and daughter,” said Hwang. “My wife sacrificed a lot because she couldn’t speak English at all. Now she can (say) ‘thank you, hi,’ those kinds of things.”
His family adores America, and he is grateful for the opportunity. However, his ambition of becoming a basketball player never came true, but he made it into the best league in the world.
“I love basketball,” Hwang said.