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Violet Palmer: Ball is on her court

Basketball is her way of life even after college

Scared out of her wits, Violet Palmer made history Halloween night in 1997 when she became the first woman to officiate a regular-season NBA game.  The former Division II basketball player has since gone on to referee more than a thousand games at the highest level of basketball, including the NBA playoffs.

A pretty good high school basketball player, Palmer played for Cal Poly Pomona from 1983 through 1986, helping the Broncos win two national championships.  After graduating, she took a job as a recreation director in Los Angeles and refereed high school girls' basketball games in her spare time.

She transitioned to college games, improving to the point where she was assigned five NCAA Division I Women's Final Fours and two NCAA Division I Women's National Championship games.  She also has worked games for the WNBA and now mentors a group of female referees aspiring to work in the NBA.

Palmer said when she walked on the court that first night as an NBA referee, she was thinking back to her days at Cal Poly Pomona and all the things she learned as a student-athlete. 

“My student-athlete experience taught me those essential things in life, not only as a basketball player but as a human being. It was dedication. It was hard work. It was the work ethic every single day,” she says.  

She doesn’t think of herself as special.  From her point of view, college athletics opened doors for her and then prepared her to walk through them.

“I was given an opportunity and, with that, it’s really simple. I used my experiences as a college basketball player at Cal Poly Pomona to excel.”

The next time you watch an NBA game you just might see her doing just that.