EDMONTON -- He’s a 34-year-old rookie who recently made NBA history and he’s from Edmonton.

Last week, Matthew Kallio became the first Canadian referee to work an game in the NBA’s 74 years of existence.

“It is something I’m very proud of and proud to represent the country, myself and my family,” said Kallio. 

His debut in the NBA is seven years in the making. That’s when Kallio was first identified as a recruit for the NBA’s development league. 

“I use the analogy. It's kind of like playing. It's so self-competitive...watching tape constantly. Keeping myself in shape,” Kallio told CTV News after working three NBA games last week. 

He’s technically a non-staff official but has a chance to earn his stripes on basketball’s biggest stage.

“I had butterflies and I was nervous but I have to be honest. I was nervous for my first high school basketball game at the REB tournament at Jasper Place,” said Kallio, who played basketball at M.E. LaZerte High School and MacEwan University.

He’s also been a referee on the international stage and began calling games a young age.

“I was 12 or 13 years old and I was refereeing eight or nine community league basketball games at JD Bracco School on the north side of Edmonton,” said Kallio from his home in Calgary. 


Kallio says he hasn’t felt intimidated by the high-profile athletes. However, there are time when he marvels at what the players can do on the floor.

“When you’re up close and you’re six feet away from them and how fast and how athletic they are. How high they jump. It truly is spectacular.”

He's now waiting for his next NBA assignments and he has bigger ambitions. Kallio is not content with being known as the first Canadian referee in the league. 

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s pretty cool. However, I don’t want to be a stat. I want to be known as one of the best in the world.”