While there is no doubt most of the league's best officials don't lack for self-confidence, it's also true that this notion is overblown. Further, it's worth mentioning that the NBA always has had strong-minded and strong-willed officials ... and the league was better for it.
Great officials are just like great players in terms of confidence, competitiveness and wanting to be the best. To officiate at the highest level and for the world's greatest athletes, you have to have a presence and a tangible aura of authority.
Maybe the perfect official would be Steven Wright with a whistle, but that's just not realistic. Just like every NBA player can't be like Tim Duncan.
I keep hearing that the league doesn't like things like Joey Crawford's intensity, Steve Javie's assuredness or Dick Bavetta's showmanship, and that's fine. It's one thing to not like it, it's another to try to rid referees of all their individuality and personality in an effort to bring as little attention to them as possible.
Bottom line is the league wants its officials to be seen and not heard. But I've got news for the league: try as you might, you're never going to make refs invisible. Nor should they be invisible.
The late Earl Strom is considered one of the greatest officials of all time, and he had an ego and personality as big as any player's. You ever hear of Pat Kennedy? He was one of the NBA's early officials and he is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. You know what they said about Kennedy ... he was colorful.
Strom and Kennedy would have a difficult time officiating in David Stern's NBA. In reality, I'm not sure that you can be a great official without a certain edge. Look at some of today's best refs: Javie, Crawford, Ron Garretson, even the young-ish Scott Foster.
They've got a little personality to go with their A-games. And make no mistake, if you get rid of refs like that, then quite simply you don't have the best officials reffing your league.
This brings us to a broader issue regarding the replacement referees. Joel Litvin, NBA president of league and basketball operations, said earlier this week that the NBA is much better prepared to open the season with replacement refs than it was back in 1995, the last time it had to do it.
Litvin said that this time the NBA is using D-League and WNBA refs, who are part of the league's pipeline. That means they've been trained in NBA mechanics and rules interpretation.
That's all well and good, but let's call it like we see it. Replacement officials haven't earned the right to referee NBA basketball. They haven't paid their dues and they don't deserve it. Having a feel for the game is far more important than memorizing the rule book and adhering to the proper technique when it comes to calling a walk.
One of the problems the NBA has with its officials is it values protocol and mechanics and presentation more than it does competence. It's become more important to find officials who look and dress the part rather than finding exceptional officials who might not fit the mold perfectly.
An official I respect once told me that good refs talk far more than they blow their whistle during the game. Good refs have a constant dialogue with players, occasionally urging them to get out of the lane before making a three-second call or warning about too much contact on the perimeter before calling a foul.
This dialogue often opens up lines of communication and creates a foundation of mutual respect. But in today's NBA, there's no room for that kind of informality. Nope, these days officials are taught to disengage, walk away and not acknowledge.
That approach breeds fewer conversations between officials and players, and creates an atmosphere in which officials are distant, aloof and unapproachable. That's not good, in general, and it's particularly not good when we're talking about less competent officials.
The league is poised to usher in a whole new group of inexperienced and youngish officials, who by extension will be more beholden to the league when it comes to behavior and demeanor. These new officials will be significantly easier for the league to control and keep in check.
The "robotizing" of officials is fully underway, and that's really too bad. After all, the best officials are always human.
More Steinmetz on Twitter: @matt_steinmetz