In Memoriam: Toronto basketball legend Harry Brown
Toronto Basketball legend Harry Brown passed away on Sunday, January 10, 3AM EST, at St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto. The former basketball star and retired Toronto District School Board teacher had suffered long-term complications. The East York resident was surrounded by immediate family members including Sue Brown, his wife of 37 years, and daughter Briana with twin sister Hilary in direct contact. Harry is survived by brother Richard Brown and sister Laura Brown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, many nephews, nieces, aunts, and uncles. He is predeceased by his parents Cornelius and Emma, siblings Cornelius Jr, George, Nancy, Joseph, Molly and James.
Harry played basketball on a scholarship with the University of Oklahoma graduating in 1970. As a dual sport athlete, he received invitations to play basketball with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. After a year of pro basketball, he eventually made his way to Toronto and mesmerized all local legends in basketball hotspots including downtown recreation centres and George Brown College on Sunday nights.
“It was like Broadway. If you could make it there, you could make it anywhere,” as chronicled in Hang Time, a self-published best seller about Toronto hoops released in 2001. Local stars including Jim Zoet, Val Pozzan, Leo Rautins, Rob Samuels, Norm Clarke, Tony Simms, Simeon Mars, Joe Alexander and Danny Ainge, now General Manager/President of the Boston Celtics knew it was all over before the game even started as Harry would single-handedly blow teams off the court.
Harry is credited by many Toronto basketball historians, coaches and administrators as one of the largest influences to generations of basketball players. “He was a legendary pillar of Toronto basketball” claimed Simeon Mars, former NBA coach and Eastern Commerce star from the 70s adding, “His magical touch and generous personality made basketball very important in Toronto and inspired a lot of players.”
Harry and his family were honoured during Hang Time: 50 Years of Toronto Basketball at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in 2016 (www.onpointbasketball.com). Toronto has become an epicentre for basketball talent in the world due in part to Harry Brown’s foundation and legacy.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, memories of Harry and how he impacted Torontonians’ lives will be on display with an online memorial. A Celebration of Life will be announced at a future date.