NBA: Referee Willard dies of cancer at 54

Greg Willard, a referee who officiated more than 1,600 NBA games, died on Monday night after a battle with pancreatic cancer, the league announced on Tuesday. He was 54 years old.

Willard refereed 1,494 regular-season games, 136 playoff games, the 2006 NBA All-Star Game in Houston and two games in the NBA Finals.

In tribute to Willard, all NBA officials will wear wristbands or patches with his jersey number, 57, for the remainder of the NBA season. There will also be a moment of silence at all games Tuesday and Wednesday for Willard.

"The entire NBA family joins me in mourning the loss of one of our own," 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."

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