Celebrating Black History Month with NBA referees: Sean Corbin

Brian Martin, for NBA.com

Of the 65 referees in the NBA this season, nine attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In celebration of Black History Month, we explore the unique bond that these officials have with one another and the impact that attending an HBCU had on their personal and professional lives.

We continue our series with Sean Corbin, who graduated from Coppin State University in 1990. Corbin is in his 24th season as an NBA referee and entered the 2017-18 season with 1,260 regular season and 74 playoff games to his credit, as well as being an official during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Q: Name an African-American pioneer who made an impact on you (and why?)

Corbin: The African-American who made an impact on me was Constance Baker Motley, who was an activist, lawyer, judge, government official and Civil Rights activist, because when I started my academic pursuit in college I wanted to be an attorney. I once read that she felt that the most difficult occupation to break into was the legal profession. Ms. Motley pursued legal studies of which I admired a great deal for an African American woman to undertake during that time.

She was a legal advocate in the Civil Rights Movement and became the first female African-American federal judge in 1966. She worked with Thurgood Marshall and also represented Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Q: What impact did attending an HBCU have on your life?

Corbin: The impact of attending an HBCU is one that has given me many rewarding life-long opportunities to be determined and purpose driven. I was nurtured in a supportive atmosphere that allowed me to grow academically amongst like-minded peers to become successful. Additionally, it created a path for me to continually give back to others, especially serving the African American Community. The NBA Referees currently partner with Scholastic Books, which enables us to participate in a monthly reading program for middle school children reading them stories and I participate in that initiative.

HBCU Referees Series:

Derrick Stafford: Morehouse College

Karl Lane, Philander Smith College

Q: Why did you decide to attend an HBCU?

Corbin: Attending an HBCU was a way to continue a family tradition as my mother graduated from an HBCU, I met my wife and we both graduated from the same HBCU with pride and our son continues our family legacy as a student athlete at an HBCU playing baseball.

Q: Nine out of 65 NBA Referees attended HBCUs. How important is that bond?

Corbin: The bond is of huge importance to us, as we all possess the unique cultural experience of attending an HBCU where we were a part of an atmosphere of community and collaboration among the student body, professors and faculty from diverse backgrounds.

Q: What was the best piece of advice someone gave you during college?

Corbin: One of my college professors, Dr. Mosley, once said “Work hard so you can play twice as hard” and that stuck with me as I understood what he was emphasizing during that particular class lecture, which was the importance to strive for our very best academically so that we may enjoy the rich rewards of our hard work later down the road.

Q: Who is a mentor that made the biggest impact on you during college?

Corbin: The mentor who made the greatest impact in my life during my time in college was Douglas Robertson, a Coppin State University alumni. Douglas was an influential figure in my collegiate years as well as my personal life. He still remains a constant and positive part of my life and the life of my family.