Veteran NBA referee Tony Brown, who officiated more than 1,000 games in a 20-year career, died on Thursday of pancreatic cancer.
He was 55 years old.
“Tony Brown was one of the most accomplished referees in the NBA and an inspiration to his colleagues,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “After his pancreatic cancer diagnosis early last year, Tony fought courageously through countless rounds of treatment to return to work this past season at the NBA Replay Center, 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.”
Brown was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 2021 and missed the rest of the 2020-21 season and last season. He underwent chemotherapy, and last season, he worked some nights in the NBA Replay Center.
““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, Tony’s wife, said in a statement. “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.
“Thanks to the Lustgarten Foundation and PanCan. Keep striving for the cures. Many, many thanks to our NBRA and NBA family whose generosity is unmatched. And a very special thank you to the Emory/Bridgeway Hospice Unit. Your compassion and care went above and beyond. We are forever grateful!”
Brown officiated 1,110 regular-season games and 35 playoff games, including one Finals game in 2020. He also officiated the 2018 All-Star Game in Los Angeles. In the Orlando bubble for the completion of the 2019-20 season, Brown was known for his pleasant demeanor and was quick with a smile even after an intense game.
Last week, Brown, Tina, and their family were recognized by Clark Atlanta University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in finance in 1989. They have created the Tony Brown Basketball Scholarship Endowment to help students attend the college and play basketball.
“Tony is a beloved member of the NBA family, and in particular, our officiating family,” NBA senior vice president of referee development and training Monty McCutchen said when Brown was diagnosed. “In addition to exemplifying what it means to be a world class referee on the court, Tony also touches so many lives off the court. The NBA officiating family and the entire NBA family stand behind Tony with thoughts and prayers as he embarks upon this courageous battle.”
In lieu of flowers, the Brown family encourages donations to the endowment at Clark Atlanta University.