Tony Brown: As I watch the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns play for an NBA championship, I can’t help but revisit this stage of the season a year ago. It was Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat. LeBron James against Jimmy Butler. The NBA bubble. It was also, in Game 4, the moment I reached the pinnacle of my professional career. After 19 years as an NBA referee, after over 1,000 regular-season and 35 playoff games, I stepped on the court to work my first Finals.
Tony Brown: Most eyes at tipoff were, I’m sure, focused on the star players who are the driving force in this league. I’m sure back home in Atlanta the eyes of my wife and my three kids were focused on me as I finally got the opportunity to work the NBA’s premier event. It was career validation: I was considered one of the best referees in the world. When this season began, my goal was to experience that exhilarating moment again. But life threw me a curveball. Pancreatic cancer. Stage 4.
Tony Brown: The first sign my body wasn’t right came after a sushi run while in Miami working the April 8 Heat-Lakers game. Stomach pain led to a doctor’s visit, and I was told it was probably a case of food poisoning. But the stomach pain lingered through the following week and my wife Tina insisted on a follow-up doctor’s visit. When I returned to Atlanta, I scheduled an appointment that turned out to be far from routine. A blood test revealed an abnormal alkaline blood number of 355 — over five times higher than in December when it registered at 66 during my preseason physical. ‘You’re healthy, so I’m not overly concerned,’ the doctor told me. ‘But let’s do some scans just to be safe.’
Tony Brown: I underwent an ultrasound and an MRI, and when something abnormal was spotted on my liver, the doctors ordered a biopsy — the removal of tissue that can be further analyzed. That was the first time someone suggested I see an oncologist — a cancer doctor. ‘No problem,’ was my response. ‘I’m in great shape; whatever’s showing up has to be benign.’ The oncologist ordered a CT scan, which I took before our meeting. ‘Don’t expect this to be an issue,’ he told me. ‘This allows us to have everything in front of us.’ I had the scan at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, April 30, hours before my 11:30 a.m. meeting with the oncologist. With a trip scheduled to Chicago later that day, I used the four-hour gap to drive to the Atlanta Hawks training facility to take a COVID-19 test. As I pulled into the facility, my phone rang. It’s an oncologist, but not the one I’m scheduled to meet.
Tony Brown: 'Are you having a shortness of breath?’ ‘No.’ ‘Can you drive back to the hospital? If you can’t, we’ll send an ambulance.’ ‘What’s going on?’ ‘We got the results of the CT scan; you have a series of blood clots in your lungs.’ ‘Excuse me, are you sure you’re talking to the right person?’ ‘Yes.’ I immediately called my wife. ‘I’m not sure what’s going on,’ I told her. ‘But I’m going to the hospital.’
Tony Brown: Everything else from that day is a blur. As soon as I arrive at Emory Hospital, I’m given blood thinners to treat multiple pulmonary embolisms, the blood clots in my lungs. I was lucky, as the risk of death from blood clots increases tenfold when you fly. ‘Had you gotten on that plane to Chicago,’ a doctor told me, ‘there’s a chance the blood clots would have killed you.’ After being treated for the blood clots, I was wheeled to the oncology floor. My wife and I are confused about being taken to a cancer floor, and when a call doctor stopped by to check on me, we asked what was going on.
Tony Brown: The doctor, startled by our unawareness of my situation, delivered a sledgehammer. ‘You have stage 4 pancreatic cancer. ‘It has spread to your liver.’ Wait, what? Cancer? I had never seen an oncologist before that day, had never had any ailments and I was the picture of health — you have to be in my profession as an NBA referee. I’m still emotionally wrecked as I think back to that moment.
Shams Charania: NBA referee Tony Brown will not officiate for the remainder of the season and playoffs after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Brown has officiated 1,109 regular season games and 35 playoff games in 19 seasons as an official.
September 21, 2021 | 2:49 am EDT Update
Who would Wolves staff consider to be early candidates for the most improved player on the roster? 2) Do the Wolves see McKinley Wright IV as a sort of “Pat Bev-in-training”? 3) Will there really be a concerted effort to apply full-court defensive pressure? — @Tresio The two players I have heard a lot of buzz about looking great in workouts: McDaniels and (drum roll, please) … Russell. Sounds like he is locked in right now.
The 21-year-old guard should thrive in pick-and-roll action with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley as rim rollers, while the addition of Lauri Markkanen, who shot 40.2 percent from downtown last season, will help space the floor and open pick-and-pop opportunities. “I think Garland’s kind of gotten lost in the shuffle in terms of people knowing who he is because of Colin Sexton,” an NBA scout opined. “If he stays healthy, I like picking him.”
Myles Turner: Top – April 280 lbs 14% Body Fat Bottom – September 255 lbs 8.5% Body Fat Off Season Well Spent 💪🏾
I have heard A-Rod and the new ownership is bully on the Wolves. What major moves do you predict they will make to improve the product in the next couple years? — @SPORTSviKINGs17 So far, it appears like the immediate target is just modernizing things, bringing a franchise that has often been at the back of the pack to more of the cutting edge when it comes to technology and innovation — that sort of thing. Of course, the main goal will be to make the Timberwolves more competitive on the floor, but I think there is a real emphasis on everything around the basketball, as well. What can be done to change the perception of the organization? They are taking a long look at culture and values and defining characteristics. Those might seem like mumbo jumbo to dyed-in-the-wool hoop heads, but those are things that Lore and Rodriguez are very familiar with in their other businesses. They can dive in on them right away as they work to get up to speed on the intricacies of basketball, the collective bargaining agreement and the team in general.