Tony Brown is one of 12 umpires assigned to work in the NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Heat, so he's guaranteed at least one game. (Tim Reynolds)
The brightness of the lights, naturally, always highlights the real stars of the show, the players. And even more so when it comes to an NBA Final, like the one the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat are playing at the Disney World sports complex in Orlando, Florida.
But of the 12 umpires assigned to officiate in at least one of the matches, there is one, Tony Brown, who has a nexus with Puerto Rico and is at least familiar to backyard players, managers, fellow officials and perhaps the odd fan.
And it is that Brown, 53 years old and a native of the state of Florida, began to whistle on the country's courts in the National Superior Basketball (BSN) at the same time he began his NBA career 18 years ago. He had to wait all those years to reach an NBA Final, and now he is together with Pat Fraher (19) and Josh Tiven (10), one of the debutants on the highest stage of the American league.
In a 2008 Phoenix Suns game, former player Steve Nash questioning referee Tony Brown. (Paul Connors)
Brown was not assigned to either of the first two games of the series (the second was played last night), but he must make his debut Sunday or Tuesday, in the third or fourth game.
El Nuevo Día spoke by phone with Brown from the “bubble”, and the Clark Atlanta University Finance graduate talked about how his growth and progress were practically on par with the NBA and BSN.
How much does this opportunity mean, after all those years whistling at the NBA level, and those other leagues and countries like Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
It means a lot because the BSN really helped me prepare to work in the NBA Finals and, you know, working in Venezuela was a great training camp, but the BSN is what helped me prepare and become a play evaluator. full. I'm 18 in the NBA, so it's 18 in the BSN. My first year in the NBA, Carlos Villanueva brought me to work and he is the reason why I started officiating at BSN.
With almost two decades of career, did you think that the moment to whistle in an NBA Final would not come, or is it the norm that they take so long?
I don't think there is a timetable. The people who make that determination simply decide. When they decide that someone has achieved the ability to work at the highest level, that is when they are given the opportunity. They basically give it to you because it is an earned position. You have to earn being there; forge your way to be there.
You have a FIBA card, so you have whistled internationally. Did that type of basketball help you to continue progressing in the NBA?
I think that working at BSN helps you become a better basketball official. The BSN is a very good training ground to learn. And the basketball there is very good.
In what specific way did the BSN help you?
It helps from the perspective of being able to see good basketball players. Help from your perspective. You know the games are good, the competition is very good. And, it simply allows you to watch plays and learn to officiate the game at a higher level.
Tony Brown in a match in Puerto Rico, at BSN. (VICTOR M. FIGUEROA)
I suppose you know that other NBA umpires in the past officiated at BSN as well, like Jack Nies, Ed Middleton, and more recently Ted Bernhardt.
Yes, they were my mentors. And actually, I went (to Puerto Rico) to help train some of the officers, but they found that they helped me as much as I helped them.
How do you compare being on stages like an All-Star Game in the WNBA and NBA, with the experience of being in a Final?
Oh you know what I don't know yet, because I haven't had it. (Laughs) But I tell you one thing, the only thing I know for sure is that I think that when you are ready to go, go out and work, once you get over your nervousness, you do what you have been trained to do. That's all I can hope for (from his first game in a Final).
What is your goal for that game that you will be assigned?
Just doing a good job and not being the center of attention in the league.
Do you have plans to beep here again in the future? Did you know that the BSN will play this fall in a bubble just like the NBA?
It could be this year depending on how things work out there. That's what I heard (plans to play in a bubble). So it could be this year.