Tony Brown, one of the most respected referees in the NBA, has passed away, reports ESPN. He was 55.
He passed away after battling pancreatic cancer.
Brown’s passing was confirmed by his family who released an official statement.
“We are and have been sustained by the consistent outpouring of love and support through this journey in developing strength, acceptance, and peace,” the family's statement read.“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.”
Born in Tallahassee, Florida, Brown was a star high school player at Amos P. Godby High School where he played point guard. He led the team to the state finals in 1984 and won a district championship in 1985. Also, he was named captain of the team during his senior year and earned All-State basketball honors.
He attended Florida A&M University before transferring to Clark Atlanta University where he graduated in 1989 with a degree in finance. Without scholarship assistance, he worked his way through school as an employee of Delta Air Lines. He cleaned planes, drove passenger carts and then became a flight attendant. He retired from Delta in 2007.
Eventually, Brown began climbing the ranks as a referee and became an NBA official. Over the course of 20 seasons in the NBA, Brown officiated more than 1,100 regular-season games and 35 playoff games.
He made his NBA Finals referee debut during the 2019-20 season and he officiated the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta that honored the legacy of HBCUs.
In April of 2021, Brown was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After more than a dozen rounds of chemotherapy, he returned to work. In an interview with The Associated Press earlier this year, Brown spoke candidly about his approach to fighting the disease.
"I haven't had time to sit around and be like, 'Why me?' or 'What am I going to do?'" he said. "Me not fighting would have made me feel like I was letting people down. What kind of example was I going to be to my kids if I just laid in this bed and let it overtake me? I had to show my kids that there's nothing in life that you can't challenge and overcome if you have a positive mindset."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver paid tribute to Brown in a statement.
“Tony Brown was one of the most accomplished referees in the NBA and an inspiration to his colleagues,” said Silver. "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 is survived by his wife, Tina Taylor-Brown, and his children, Bailey, Basile and Baylen.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tony Brown.