Monday, November 1, 2010

R.I.P. Luke!


Earlier this month one of my childhood heros died. Maurice Lucas, talented basketball player and all around good guy, died of cancer on October 31st at the age of 58. Luke (or "The Enforcer" as he was known) played a key role in my childhood in Portland. Maurice Lucas was part of the 1976-77 Portland Trailblazer NBA championshiop team. This team overcame monstrous odds to beat the Philadelphia 76ers which was loaded with talented players like Darryl Dawkins, and basketball God, Dr. J. Along with Bill Walton and a cast of no names, Luke provided the muscle and drive to win the championship, and essentially the hearts and minds of the city of Portland, OR. Game 2 of that series was a real turning point. Philly was about to go up 2-0 in the series when Darryl Dawkins got in a scuffle with forward Bob Gross, wrestling him to the ground and throwing punches. Luke stepped in to nail Darryl in the back of the neck, a scuffle ensued and both were thrown out of the game. Chocolate Thunder went into the locker room and destroyed the bathroom stalls (with Dick Schaap reporting remotely from the bathroom), and the Blazers went on to win the next four games and the championship. Luke represented the pride of our city, much aligned for being one of the smallest NBA cities and a place only famous for rain and progressive city planning (yawn!). I can remember my Dad and I running outside and screaming at the sky when the Blazers won. Portland went nuts! People were honking car horns, impromptu parades started, and general mayhem ensued. Nothing this big had ever happened to Portland, and Luke helped to put us on the map.

Luke went on to play for several other NBA teams and eventually became an assistant coach for the Blazers, under coach Nate McMillan. Although he was feared on the hard wood, off the court he was a gentle soul. Bill Walton was so affected by him, that he named his own son Luke. From what I've read he was a great role model to young NBA players throughout his career.

Thanks for the memories, Luke. You lifted the spirits of a rainy city and made all of us feel proud! Here's a clip of the final moments of the 76-77 Trailblazer NBA Championship...


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw Maurice Lucas and Bill Walton at Lloyd Center after the championship. I thought I was gonna die....
Dona B.

Scott Raedeke said...

Hi Dona, I'm sure you looked very pretty to Bill and Maurice in your gunnysack dress and sausage curl hairdo! Were you skating at the time?