Monday, June 11, 2012

Referee Greg Willard Diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer

Long time and veteran National Basketball Association referee Greg Willard was scheduled to work last Wednesday's Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, but had to remove himself from the assignment due to an illness and troubling blood test results. On Monday, Willard was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The 24 year NBA veteran official has officiated over 1,500 regular season games (including 61 this year) and over 120 postseason games. Only four days before Willard was scheduled to work Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, he worked Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics that went to overtime. Willard had worked the previous two NBA Finals, but will be physically absent from this year's Finals.

His fellow officiating colleagues working the NBA Finals will his number (57) as a patch on their jerseys in honor of Willard and "a gesture of their support.," said general counsel of the NBRA Lee Seham. Seham said of Willard, that his "professionalism and integrity have made him a role model within the NBA community" and that "we want him and his family to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them."

Willard is the third long time, active veteran in the world of officiating to receive a cancer diagnosis this year. NFL Referee and crew chief Tony Corrente was diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer this past winter and MLB crew chief John Hirschbeck has not umpired a game in the 2012 season due to a return of cancer.

News: Referee Greg Willard has cancer


Anonymous said...

This is awful news, absolutely terrible and heartbreaking. Greg Willard is one of the nicest referees I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and his committment to not only his own craft but to the development of all officials speaks to the incredible quality of his character. Prayers for Willard during this troublesome time.

Anonymous said...

Pancreatic cancer is a bear, and hopefully it was caught early. Heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

Even the closest call possible in the history of sports can't come close to this. What a tragedy.

SJR said...

Good luck to him.

Anonymous said...

Greg Willard is a class act from the word go. I umpired some commuunity college baseball games with him before he continued his basketball career which eventually found him joining the NBA.

Anonymous said...

I have met Greg at basketball camps in the summer, and this is a tough blow to the referee community. Such a great guy, official and mentor to officials. Thoughts and prayers to him and his family for a speedy recovery!!

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