New York, NY (Sports Network) - NBA veteran official Greg Willard died after a battle with cancer on Monday, passing away at the age of 54.
Willard, an NBA official for 24 seasons, was forced to step away from the game during the 2012 NBA Playoffs, when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
"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. Our thoughts are with his wife Laurie, their children and the rest of the Willard family during this difficult time."
NBA officials will honor Willard by wearing wristbands or patches with his jersey number 57 for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. The league will also recognize the long-time referee with a moment of silence at all games Tuesday and Wednesday.
Over a career that began in 1988, Willard officiated 1,494 regular-season games, 136 playoff games, two NBA Finals games and the 2006 NBA All-Star Game.