Tony Brown, Historic NBA Referee, Dead at 55 After Battle With Pancreatic Cancer

Tony Brown, Historic NBA Referee, Dead at 55 After Battle With Pancreatic Cancer

Tony Brown, a referee who worked with the National Basketball Association for 20 seasons, passed away at the end of October after battling pancreatic cancer.

“We are and have been sustained by the consistent outpouring of love and support through this journey in developing strength, acceptance, and peace,” Tina Brown, wife to the historic figure, said in a statement released by the league. “We ask that you join us in that spirit as we prepare to celebrate Tony’s life. Our biggest thank you to our village of family and friends, near and far, old and new. Your love is immeasurable.”

The referee was initially diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in April of 2021 and he immediately began receiving rounds of treatment. After successful rounds of treatment, he was able to return to the NBA courts and work in the NBA replay center last season. Given his 20-year history with the league, players, coaches, and officials alike have been outspoken about their grief.

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“Tony Brown was one of the most accomplished referees in the NBA and an inspiration to his colleagues,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated, speaking of the historic figure in a statement.

“Tony fought courageously through countless rounds of treatment to return to work this past season… demonstrating the dedication, determination, and passion that made him such a highly respected official for 20 years. The entire NBA family mourns Tony’s passing and we send our deepest condolences to his wife, Tina; their children, Bailey, Basile, and Baylen; and his fellow referees.”

Reflecting on the significant life of NBA referee Tony Brown

Brown has longtime ties to the sport of basketball – playing as a child and throughout high school, he went on to play for Clark Atlanta University. His love for the game never wavered, even as he worked as an employee for an employee of Delta Air Lines. While working for Delta, he also began working for the NBA.

Throughout his 20-season career with the league, he officiated over 1,100 regular-season games and 35 playoff games. Brown’s impact was felt throughout the league, with NBA legend LeBron James going as far as reflecting on the fond memories he has with the referee.

“Loved when I ran on the court for warmups and he would be on the game that night! Your smile & laugh will be missed tremendously here in our sport!” James tweeted after hearing the tragic news.

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