Greg Willard


Greg Willard, a longtime NBA referee who worked more than 1,600 games before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, has died. He was 54.

Willard died Monday night, according to the league. He was diagnosed with the illness during last season's playoffs and worked only one more game, a preseason matchup in October not far from his Huntington Beach, Calif., home.

Some NBA players, including three-time MVP LeBron James of the Miami Heat, New Orleans guard Roger Mason and Sacramento center Cole Aldrich, tweeted condolences to Willard's family, as did Golden State coach Mark Jackson. More tributes were expected in the coming days, including moments of silence in Willard's memory at all NBA games Tuesday and Wednesday.

"The entire NBA family joins me in mourning the loss of one of our own, Greg Willard," NBA Commissioner David Stern said. "Greg touched all those with whom he came in contact thanks to his extraordinary spirit, dedication and hard work. As a Finals referee, he reached the highest level of his profession while at the same time demonstrating a strong commitment to his family and his community."

Willard officiated 1,494 regular-season games, 136 playoff games, two NBA Finals games, the 2006 All-Star game and Europe Live games in 2006 in Italy, France and Germany in a career that spanned nearly a quarter-century.

All league officials will wear wristbands or patches with Willard's jersey No. 57 for the rest of the season.

"Our thoughts are with his wife Laurie, their children and the rest of the Willard family during this difficult time," Stern said.

Willard spent four years as an official at the college level and four years working games in the Continental Basketball Association before joining the NBA ranks.

He was also active in several youth programs, particularly ones supporting athletics and the performing arts.

"Greg epitomized what it meant to be an NBA referee th rough dedication to his craft, hard work, and integrity both on and off the court," said Lee Seham, general counsel for the National Basketball Referees Association. "He was not only a great NBA referee, but more importantly a wonderful person."

TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer

Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Guest Book

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May u rip

I give my condolences to his family.

May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.

Greg was one of my favorite student athletes at Edison. So very proud of the husband, father, and professional he became! Thoughts and prayers are with Laurie and family.

"like a man whom his own mother keeps comforting,so I myself shall keep comforting you people."ish.66:13..please accept my condolence

Our prayers are with Laurie and the family. I hecame friends with Greg back in 71' as a schoolmate at Wardlow. He was a dear friend, an inspiration and a role model. The impact that he had on our community will be felt for many, many years to come. He was Loved by so many. I am honored to have been his friend. I will speak of Greg often to my own son Sean in hopes that he may grow up to be a man of ethics, integrity & humility. Just like Greg Willard. GOD speed Greg.

As a member of the officiating community, I had the privilege to talk to Greg about our vocation. He was always friendly and helpful. He also was respected by his NBA brotherhood. Romans 8:28

Greg was more than just another kid that I went to elementary school with. He was an example of what was good & right. He was living challenge of what you could be. Of what you should be. The impact of which I can still feel 40+ years later. My sincere condolences to the entire family.