Tony Brown, a longtime NBA referee, died Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer, the league said. He was 55.
“We are and have been sustained by the consistent outpouring of love and support through this journey in developing strength, acceptance and peace,” his wife Tina Brown said in a statement released by the NBA.”We ask that you join us in that spirit as we prepare to celebrate Tony’s life.”
Over the course of 20 seasons, Brown officiated more than 1,100 regular-season games and 35 playoff games, according to the league.
His NBA Finals referee debut came during the 2019-20 season, and he also helped officiate the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta that honored Historically Black College and Universities.
“Tony Brown was one of the most accomplished referees in the NBA and an inspiration to his colleagues,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “The entire NBA family mourns Tony’s passing.”
Brown was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, according to Silver, who added that the referee went through many rounds of treatment.
His resilience was shown through his “dedication, determination and passion that made him such a highly respected official for 20 years,” Silver noted.
NBA legends are remembering the renowned referee’s contributions to the game.
“Great ref but greater dude!” Los Angeles Lakers’ Lebron James said in a social media post. “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!”
Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson also shared his condolences to the Brown’s family.
“Rest in peace to veteran NBA referee Tony Brown! Thank you for everything you did for the game. Sending prayers to the entire Brown family!” Johnson wrote on social media.
Brown is survived by his wife and three children. His death comes after this year’s NBA season began Tuesday.
“Our biggest thank you to our village of family and friends, near and far, old and new. Your love is immeasurable,” said Brown’s wife, Tina. “Many, many thanks to our NBRA and NBA family whose generosity is unmatched.”
Tina Brown also thanked the Lustgarten Foundation and Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which are nonprofit organizations dedicated to research as well as providing resources and information to patients and their caregivers.
In 1989, Brown graduated from Clark Atlanta University, an HBCU, where he studied finance.
During his high school years at Amos P. Godby in Tallahassee, Florida, Brown played point guard and achieved All-State basketball honors. He made captain his senior year, and led his teammates to become 1984 State Finalists and 1985 District Champs.
Brown’s family is asking people to contribute to the Tony Brown Basketball Scholarship Endowment at his alma mater to honor his memory. More than $80,000 of the $100,000 goal had been raised as of early Friday.