In the midst of a cancer battle, Tony Brown is back in action in the NBA

In the midst of a cancer battle, Tony Brown is back in action in the NBA

Tony Brown isn’t usually excited to be named an alternate as one of the serving referees for the NBA’s Replay Center.

This is it, so far.

The NBA reference — who was diagnosed earlier this year with stage 4 pancreatic cancer — returns to action Monday for the first time in eight months. He was approved to work at the reboot center for two nights, after his family, his doctors and the league agreed that his treatment had gone well enough to allow him to return.

“I didn’t have time to sit down and talk like ‘Why me?'” Or “What am I going to do?” Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Not fighting me would have made me feel like I was letting people down. What kind of example would I be to my children if I just lay in this bed and let him outrun me? I had to show my children that there is nothing in life that you cannot challenge and overcome if you have a positive mindset. “


Brown’s fight is far from over. The American Cancer Society estimates that 3% of patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer are still alive five years after their diagnosis.

He underwent 14 rounds of chemotherapy — each involving seven hours of taking three different drugs in the hospital, followed by another two days of treatment at home through a port in his chest. Brown still has two more rounds of chemotherapy, but doctors are encouraged by scans that show his tumors are steadily shrinking.

“I got better results than expected,” Brown said.

His friends in the NBA referees community checked in constantly. Rodney Mott, one of his closest allies, helped introduce Brown to some of the shakes and supplements that Brown believed helped him throughout the process. Some of the current players even sent their good wishes.

“This is something you can’t face on your own,” Brown said.


It all started with what was initially thought to be just food poisoning from a bad batch of sushi he ate during a business trip to Miami. This led to tests that led to more tests that eventually led to a diagnosis of cancer. Within a week, he was undergoing extensive treatment, and since then he’s been seeing reputable doctors from Emory University in Atlanta and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

It turned out that food poisoning was very lucky.

“I hope it just sends a clear message: Just go get some sort of early detection,” Brown said. “It’s worth it, because you never know. And time is of the essence.”

Brown managed 1,109 regular season games, two NBA All-Star games, and made his debut in the NBA Finals in 2020. He would have returned to the replay position earlier this month, but the schedule can’t be laid out around the treatment regimen. His chemist at that time.

Monty McCutchen, who oversees the NBA governors, told Brown that when he’s ready, the league will be ready for him. Brown’s doctors then agreed to agree, leaving Brown with only one additional permit.


“I started talking to my family about it, and before I could even get the words out, they were saying ‘Sure, you should do it,'” Brown said. I thought about it for about a week, then called Monty and said I was willing to contribute and do my part.”

Brown’s goal is to return to the field this season, perhaps shortly after the All-Star break. He immersed himself in the game while he was away, saying that watching and studying were a big part of his therapy.

He’s also been able to keep fit, another obvious help.

“I wasn’t just fighting for me,” Brown said. “I felt like I was fighting for everyone who loves and respects me. It just makes you fight harder.”


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