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Sixteen years officiating have led to this moment. For New Albany’s Mike Nobles, his primary goal working as a basketball official is to call each game fairly and to the best of his ability while striving to call the state’s biggest games.
Honoring his hard work in the profession, Nobles was recently named the Basketball Official of the Year for the Northeast 1 district, the first time he has received this honor.
Nobles career began in 1994-95 after he was approached about umpiring high school softball games. Using it as a source for extra income, the job carried over into basketball, as he called junior high game and junior varsity games for his first three years before he asked to move up to the high school varsity level.
“I didn’t know about doing that because the games are bigger and I didn’t have the desire to move up at that time,” he said. “Everyone wants to call the big games, which for our area, it’s Myrtle-Ingomar, Myrtle-West Union and any of those teams playing New Albany, because they’re the city school. You want to call those types of games, so the pride issue kicks in, and that’s why I wanted to move up in the high school level.”
With experience came bigger opportunities in the profession, as Nobles’ reputation preceded his name, and 10 years into officiating, he called his first north half championship game.
“Every official is rated by the coaches after games, and the better your overall rating at the end of the regular season, the further you referee in the playoffs,” he said. “So that was my next goal after moving up was to call in the playoffs with the ultimate being to work the state tournament.”
2008 marked the first year Nobles worked in Jackson, as he called the first two days of the state tournament.
“I assumed my season was over after those two days, then I received a call the next week asking to come back for the 1A and 5A girls finals,” he explained. “The Monday after that, I received another call from Jackson asking if I would referee the Grand Slam, which was in Tupelo that year, so I also called the boys Grand Slam final.”
In 2009, Nobles returned to Jackson, refereeing the 3A and 4A boys championships along with the 5A and 6A girls title games and a game in the 1A girls Grand Slam.
“It’s a prestigious honor to be among those called to work in Jackson,” he said. “There’s only 12 of us that call the state, so that’s 12 out of roughly 750 to 900 referees in the state that have this opportunity each year.”
In 16 seasons, Nobles has watched many big games along with some of the state’s best talent, including Starkville’s Rashad Perkins.
“I can’t call Ingomar because my kids go there and I can’t call New Albany because I went to school there, so it’s given me the opportunity to watch some great teams,” he said. “Probably the most incredible play I’ve seen in my 16 years was when Rashad Perkins in the fourth quarter of the 6A north finals had an amazing dunk. I was under the goal and a guy threw up a shot, coming off the back rim. Starkville has a guy that Perkins jumps over and caught the ball in the air and dunked while on the kid’s back. Probably the most impressive dunk I’ve ever seen in a ball game.”
The excitement of the game along with his love of sports has Nobles coming back every year and not showing any signs of slowing down.
“When you’re 42 years old, you don’t run as fast as you used to, and those teenagers are getting tougher to keep up with,” he said. “I still enjoy it and have a passion for it. Every night when I go on the court, I want to do the best job I an do and be fair. It’s what I’ve always tried to do. For as long as I feel like I’m doing that and my body holds up and I enjoy it, I’ll keep going.”
Nobles encourages anyone interested in becoming an official for any sport to contact him at BNA Bank or talk to any official you know to learn more.