Tony Brown, referee who labored within the NBA Finals, dies at 55

Tony Brown has all the time taken up a problem.

He made his option to Clark College in Atlanta, when there was no scholarship out there to him. He rose via the ranks of basketball umpires, finally turning into the most effective umpires within the NBA. And even in his closing days battling pancreatic most cancers, he was nonetheless attempting to assist others.

Brown, who refereed greater than 1,100 NBA video games over almost 20 years, died Thursday, his household stated. He was 55 years outdated.

“Tony Brown was one of the completed referees within the NBA and an inspiration to his colleagues,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver stated.

Brown was recognized with stage 4 pancreatic most cancers in April 2021 and recovered to the purpose the place he was capable of return to work on the NBA replay heart final season. He entered hospice care in Atlanta in latest days, his household stated.

“We’re and have been buoyed by the fixed outpouring of affection and assist all through this journey in constructing energy, acceptance and peace,” stated Brown’s household – his spouse. , Tina Taylor-Brown and their kids Bailey, Basil and Baylen – in an announcement. “We ask that you simply be a part of us on this spirit as we put together to have a good time Tony’s life. Our biggest due to our village of household and buddies, close to and much, outdated and new. Your love is immeasurable.”

Brown was chosen to referee a pair of NBA All-Star video games, and labored a sport within the 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and miami heat. He additionally appeared in championship video games within the CBA and WNBA, and was a WNBA All-Star official earlier than becoming a member of the NBA in 2003.

The Tallahassee, Fla., native was recognized after experiencing an upset abdomen, which he initially attributed to what he thought was unhealthy sushi. After greater than a dozen rounds of intense chemotherapy, Brown felt effectively sufficient to return to work – with the blessings of his medical workforce, the NBA and his household.

”I did not have time to take a seat down and say ‘Why me?’ or “What am I going to do?” Brown advised The Related Press earlier this yr. “If I wasn’t preventing, I’d have felt like I used to be letting folks down. What sort of instance was I going to be for my kids if I simply lay on this mattress and let it overtake me? I needed to present my youngsters that there is nothing in life you’ll be able to’t problem and overcome you probably have a optimistic mindset.

A gifted highschool basketball participant, Brown accepted a scholarship to Florida A&M earlier than finally deciding to switch to what was then known as Clark School – now Clark Atlanta College. No scholarships have been out there there for him, so Brown labored his means via faculty as a Delta Air Strains worker. He cleaned planes, drove passenger carts, then turned a flight attendant and remained employed by Delta till his retirement in 2007.

By then, his NBA profession was in full swing. He labored the 2018 All-Star Recreation in Los Angeles, then was chosen to work the 2021 sport which was moved to Atlanta. His fellow umpires for that 2021 sport have been fellow Atlanta residents Tom Washington and Courtney Kirkland — who, like Brown, have been graduates of traditionally black faculties and universities, and that sport was the one during which the NBA stood. dedicated to showcasing HBCUs and elevating over $3 million. for scholarship funds.

“Crucial a part of this complete sport, for us, is that we symbolize the officers of the NBA and we’ve got to do an excellent job for them,” Brown advised AP earlier than this sport. ”Each evening we go to this ground, we symbolize one another. And that’s the biggest reward and the best achievement that we are able to have, by doing our work. ”

Even within the final days of his life, Brown’s focus was not on himself. His household and buddies labored feverishly to fund a scholarship for Clark Atlanta gamers within the days earlier than his demise. Earlier this month, some Clark Atlanta gamers visited Brown at a hospice and offered him with a jersey as a thanks for his efforts.

Legal professional Mawuli Davis, one of many predominant organizers of the scholarship effort, stated the household remains to be pursuing the $100,000 aim and hopes to current a verify for that quantity to Clark Atlanta on the opening of the boys’s basketball season on November 7.

“Tony Brown embodies all the pieces it means to be a Clark Atlanta basketball participant,” stated Clark Atlanta coach Alfred Jordan. “His onerous work, willpower and perseverance is what units him aside from others as these qualities are onerous to return by today. ”

Brown was additionally inadvertently a part of a historic NBA evening.

On December 30, 2020, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was livid that no foul was known as throughout a apply by DeMar DeRozanwho was then enjoying for Spurs in a sport towards the Los Angeles Lakers. Brown despatched off Popovich for his outburst, and Popovich signaled then-Spurs assistant Becky Hammon to take over.

With this, Hammon turned the primary lady to guide a workforce in NBA historical past.

Earlier that yr, Brown made what was his solely on-court look within the NBA Finals. He was within the league restart bubble at Walt Disney World for a number of weeks and stated when he realized he was one in all 12 referees chosen for the title collection, his thoughts instantly puzzled how. his household would react to the information.

“I used to be speechless after I discovered,” Brown stated on the time. ”The very first thing I skilled was the sacrifices my household made to be by my facet on this journey. I used to be happier for my household than the rest.”

Along with expressing their appreciation for his or her caregivers, Brown’s household publicly thanked the Lustgarten Basis and PanCan, a company devoted to preventing pancreatic most cancers, in addition to the NBA and the Nationwide Basketball Referees Affiliation for his or her assist.

”Hold preventing for the cures,” his household stated.

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