Longtime NBA referee Tony Brown has died at the age of 55 after a battle with cancer


Tony Brown, a longtime NBA referee, died Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer, the league announced. He was 55 years old.

“Throughout this journey of developing strength, acceptance and peace we are and have been a constant outpouring of love and support,” 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 20 seasons, Brown played in more than 1,100 regular season games and 35 playoff games, according to the league.

He made his NBA Finals referee debut in the 2019-20 season and also officiated the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta, which honored Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“Tony Brown was one of the NBA’s greatest referees 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, adding that the judge went through many rounds of treatment.

His resilience “made him a highly respected officer for 20 years through dedication, determination and passion,” noted Silver.

NBA legends are remembering the famous referee’s contributions to the game.

“A great reference but a bigger friend!” Los Angeles Lakers’ Lebron James said a social media post. “I loved running around the court for warm-ups and he would be in the game that night! Your smile and laughter will be greatly missed here in our sport!”

Also Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson shared his condolences to the Brown family.

“Rest in peace to veteran NBA referee Tony Brown! Thank you for all you have done 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 the start of this year’s NBA season on Tuesday.

“Our biggest thanks to our family and friends, near and far, old and new. Your love is immeasurable,” said Brown’s wife, Tina. “Many thanks to our NBRA and NBA family, whose generosity is second to none.”

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 earned All-State basketball honors. He captained his senior year and led his teammates to the 1984 State Finalist and 1985 District Champions.

Brown’s family is asking people to contribute to his alma mater’s Tony Brown Basketball Scholarship Endowment to honor his memory. More than $80,000 of the $100,000 goal had been raised as of early Friday.