Veteran NBA ref Greg Willard diagnosed with pancreatic cancer
New York, NY, United States (AHN Sports) – Referees officiating the NBA Finals will wear No. 57 patch on their uniforms in honor of colleague Greg Willard, who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Game 1 of the Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat will be played Tuesday in Oklahoma.
Willard was scheduled to blow the whistle during the San Antonio Spurs-Oklahoma City Thunder Game 6 Wednesday but was pulled out due to illness. The Thunder won that game, 107-99, to advance to the Finals against the Heat.
A later blood test revealed that Willard has a serious illness, which turned out to be pancreatic cancer.
“Greg’s professionalism and integrity have made him a role model within the NBA community,” said National Basketball Referee Association (NBRA) general counsel Lee Seham.
“We want him and his family to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them,” added Seham, who arranged the gesture of support for Greg and his family in cooperation with the NBA.
Despite his condition, Willard worked games in this season’s playoffs, including one just last week between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.
Willard has been an NBA referee for 24 seasons and has officiated over 1,500 regular season games, 120 playoff games and has been officiating in the finals since the 2009-2010 season.
Pancreatic cancer refers to a malignant neoplasm originating from transformed cells arising in tissues forming the pancreas. It is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths across the globe.
In the United States each year, over 30,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Because pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed late into its development, the five-year survival rate after diagnosis is less than five percent.