The NBA is a fraternity among the players, coaches, or referees. And when one of them departs the earthly realm, it’s felt all around the league, especially when you’re as well-respected and well-liked longtime NBA official Tony Brown. On Thursday, Brown lost his courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
Brown, an HBCU graduate of Clark Atlanta University, spent 20 years as a member of the zebra crew. He officiated 1,110 games in the regular season and 35 in the postseason.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke highly of Brown in his remarks following his death.
“Tony Brown was one of the accomplishments referees in the NBA and an inspiration to his colleagues,” the commissioner said via 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 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 considered a man of integrity and decency, both in his on-court work and off the court.
NBA veteran official Tony Brown passed away today following a hard-fought bout with cancer. He was one of the best running the sidelines and one cool brother. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/GPhyMORCRU
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 20, 2022
Brown’s Wife Thanks Everyone For Their Outpouring Of Love And Support:
Even as she and the Brown family mourn the loss of Tony, his wife Tina made sure to thank everyone for their overwhelming love, support, and condolences during their grief.
“We are and have been sustained by the consistent outpouring of love and support through this journey in developing strength, acceptance and peace. 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 NRBA and NBA family whose generosity is unmatched. And a very special thanks to the Emory/Bridgeway Hospice Unit. Your compassion and care went above and beyond. We are forever grateful!”
Rest In Peace, Tony Brown. You are missed brother. pic.twitter.com/G0ISZtyjjj
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) October 20, 2022
Brown’s Résumé Stretches Across Many Basketball Platforms:
Before his arrival as an NBA official, the late Brown worked in both the NBA G-League, CBA, and WNBA. During that time frame, he officiated the 2002 WNBA Finals, 2002 WNBA All-Star Game, and 2001 CBA Finals.
We are asking for your support in establishing the Tony Brown Basketball Scholarship Endowment. Tony, a Clark Atlanta University alum & beloved NBA Ref for 20 years, was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer last year. Let's keep fighting with Tony. https://t.co/Go53xplVUh pic.twitter.com/xVzSTkJ4bP
— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) October 4, 2022
From the time Brown began officiating NBA games, he was considered one of the best and most well-liked officials among the players. Of the 35 playoff games Brown worked, the 2020 NBA Finals, which took place in the “NBA Disney Bubble,” stand out because of the unprecedented times of the world and country amidst a global pandemic.
Brown also officiated the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, which took place in Atlanta. The game honored HBCUs and piggybacked the initiative following the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020.