The 2022 NBA Playoffs are right around the corner and besides some of the Latine players we’ll be rooting for like Devin Booker from the Phoenix Suns and Jose “Grand Theft” Alvarado from the New Orleans Pelicans, there’s at least one referee we’re hoping gets some substantial time on the court this postseason.
Meet Blanca Burns, the first Mexican woman referee in the NBA. Burns earned that designation when she took the court to ref a game between the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs on December 27, 2021. During the game, she even got an earful from Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, an occurrence some would say confirms that she has “made it.”
Born in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico, Burns and her family moved to El Paso, Texas, and then to Oklahoma. Her love for basketball was evident when she was a child.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I always had a basketball in my hand,” Burns told ESPN. “I played the game at every level in school.”
Burns played basketball for two seasons at Mid-America Christian University in Oklahoma City. She paid the bills by working kids’ games at the local YMCA. Eventually, Burns became a referee for the NCAA and then for the G League, the NBA’s official minor league basketball organization.
So, what is it like hitting the hardwood and calling fouls on superstars like LeBron James? “You see LeBron and Ja [Morant] there, and to actually be on the court with them, it’s something I’m never going to forget,” Blanca Burns said. “At the same time, you realize you’re there to do a job, so you check your emotions.”