Maurice Lucas embraced the Northwest

Memories flood in after the passing of Blazers legend

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MORE ONLINE

• Visit www.blazers.com to see the team's tribute to Maurice Lucas.

• Yahoo! Sports blog "Ball Don't Lie" also has a tribute.

• Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley says Maurice Lucas is one of his 10 favorite players.

He meant so much to Rip City, much more than his enforcer role on the basketball court and the 20 points per game in Portland’s lone championship season.

Maurice Lucas was a part of Rip City the community.

His passing on Sunday of cancer at the age of 58 was national sports news, even on a day with the NFL and the World Series. He was that big of a force, even if he last played in 1987.

He was best known as a Trail Blazer, of course, but he had stints with five other NBA teams — including the Seattle SuperSonics — and two ABA squads.

But to many of us who grew up in the Northwest, he was just as known for his sincerity off the court. He was part of an era when professional athletes could be seen out and about with their fans. Here are just a few memories from The Columbian staff:

I was 10 or 11 years old, attending a Portland Beavers baseball game at what was then called Civic Stadium. In between innings, my friend and I went in search of a hot dog or some pop corn or a chocolate malt — the usual. Side by side with my friend Mike, we were walking one way and this 6-foot, 9-inch man was walking the other way. We passed this man and took about 10 steps.

My friend and I stopped and gave each other the, wait-was-that-who-I-thought-it-was look.

I turned around and yelled, “Hey, are you Maurice Lucas?”

(Yes, I was that subtle.)

He turned, smiled, and said, in a deep voice that rumbled through the concrete concourse, “Most of the time.”

He beamed a big smile, walked back to us, and shook our hands. The “friendship” lasted all of 30 seconds, but to two kids in Portland, knowing that Lucas stopped to say hello to us, well, that made our night.

It was definitely a different era. Nowadays, the leading scorer for an NBA team that had won a championship probably wouldn’t be walking, by himself, at a minor league baseball game, no handlers around him to shoo-away those pesky 10-year-olds.

— Paul Valencia, sports reporter

• • •

I must have been about 12 or so when I met Maurice Lucas. He was signing autographs at a photo supply shop in Gresham, Ore., and a horde of kids swarmed around this giant of a man. He seemed to enjoy every minute of it, though, smiling, laughing and making conversation with us kids as if HE was the one meeting special people.

A few years later, our paths crossed again while he was in his last year with the Sonics. I saw him walking with other NBA players in downtown Seattle the night before the 1987 All-Star Game. Like an idiot, I said, “Hey, Maurice,” as if he was supposed to know who I was, but he played right along, waving and saying hello.

— Dave Magnuson, copy editor

• • •

As an 11-year-old in Salem, Ore., any Trail Blazer who came to town and sign autographs was a big deal. I had to be there.

Maurice Lucas came to downtown Salem for the opening of a new bank and I had mom drive me and some friends to this bank. I recall a small mob from the moment he arrived, but got my autograph and a picture sitting next to the Blazers star.

As he signed the inside cover of my scrapbook he noticed the two other signatures. One was teammate Lionel Hollins.

“Hey. Who’s this other guy?” came the next question.

“Oh, that’s my best friend,” I replied. “We signed each other’s books.”

Lucas laughed.

After tearing up my garage Monday morning I found the scrapbook Lucas autographed and the picture that was taken that day back in 1979.

This scrapbook also revealed the many games I attended as a kid at the Memorial Coliseum.

I saw a game in person where Lucas returned to the Blazers lineup after a lengthy injury, and I also was at the game where Lucas made his first return to the MC as a member of the New Jersey Nets. The cheers both times were tremendous.

— Jeff Klein, sports copy editor