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Born in Havertown Pennsylvania, Tim Donaghy loved the game of basketball ever since he could remember. He received his love for the game from his father Gerry Donaghy, who had officiated at high school and collegiate level games for over thirty years. Since he lived so close to Philadelphia, he naturally became a 76ers fan. Some of his favorite players were Doug Collins and Mike Dunleavy. Donaghy attended Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Pennsylvania, where he played competitively during his four years spent there. Following high school, Donaghy graduated from Villanova University with a liberal arts degree in 1989. Although Donaghy had a degree after his graduation, he became unsatisfied with the direction in which his career was headed. One night while sitting at the kitchen table with his parents, his mother suggested that he look into a career in the NBA. It was all the motivation that he needed, and began to pursue his newfound dream job. Later as Tim Donaghy perfected his skills as a referee through training camps, he was noticed by the NBA supervisor of officials Darell Garretson. This eventually led to Tim Donaghy's start in the CBA, the NBA's official minor league. He officiated for three years in the CBA. Before his fourth year Donaghy was called to officiate in the NBA. From 1994 to 2007 Tim Donaghy worked for the NBA, officiating in 772 regular-season games and 20 playoff games. Donaghy was a participant in the NBA's Read to Achieve program, for which he participated in an event at the Universal Charter school during the 2002 NBA Finals. His uniform number was 21.

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