Maurice Lucas died on Sunday. He was 58. And when you heard the lousy news maybe your impulse thought was about bladder cancer and the resident enforcer who helped the Trail Blazers win their only NBA championship.
Mostly, I thought about that amazing handshake of his.
Lucas was a 6-foot-9 power forward with a pair of cinder blocks for fists. Coach Dr. Jack Ramsay once told me that it was “Luke” who he always viewed as the key piece that put his title team over the top. And while I never saw the man play basketball in his prime, all you needed to do to understand what he was about was to shake his hand. (Lucas was named one of the Top 5 Blazers of all time.)
He make your own hand disappear. Lucas would hold the grasp and look you in the eyes. He’d smile, and bellow, and when he greeted you, he’d rock back and forth on the balls of his feet, tugging you around like a T-shirt in the wind.
If there's a better handshake on the planet, I don't know it.
Lucas wasn’t around the Blazers much in the last couple of years. He was in and out of the hospital, visiting with doctors, enduring chemotherapy. For a while there, even as we knew Lucas had cancer, we all expected "The Enforcer" would kick it's butt.
It's what Lucas did. And Darryl Dawkins knows what I’m talking about.
Lucas lost his battle on Halloween. I won't ever think of the holiday the same way. The Blazers media relations department made the call they’ve been dreading for weeks, one by one, reaching out to pass the message to the public. And while I’ve covered the Blazers for eight seasons, and seen some disappointing things, this is the worst news I’ve ever had to write about.
Losing a game stinks. Losing a legend is unspeakable.
Lucas was a terrific basketball player. Soulful. Fearless. Strong. But when you raised his name people rarely talked about the points or rebounds or even a big game, instead they told you, “Nobody was tougher.”
I think Lucas liked that.
During the 2008 season the Blazers got intimidated by a screaming, posturing, trash-talking Kevin Garnett in a loss at Boston. Rookie Greg Oden was on his first NBA road trip, and his eyes were wide as saucers after the game as I talked with him.
Lucas, then a Blazers assistant, walked past and said that nobody trash-talked like Garnett during his career. “Back then,” Lucas said, “it was only a $50 fine for punching a guy in the mouth.”
I will never forget the looks on the faces of the young Blazers.
Lucas showed up at charity events over the years, and in hospital rooms of dying Blazers fans, and at practices and games. He shook hands, and made everyone remember simpler times.
You kept asking about him, and I kept telling people I didn’t see Lucas at the practice facility much in the last 12 months. And he wasn’t on the team bench as much as he once was as an assistant coach. But that’s not to say he wasn’t around, because you could feel him everywhere.
Brandon Roy talked about instilling “a toughness” in his teammates, and when he did, he referenced Lucas. And when we discussed whether Lamarcus Aldridge would take the next step and become an All-Star, someone always brought up Lucas as the benchmark at that position. And when Oden was busy rehabilitating you figured that a month spent renting out Lucas’ spare bedroom was all the big guy needed.
It’s Lucas, not Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler or Roy, who ends up as the guts of the Blazers organization. Those guys are sensational, big-time players. But the contributions of Lucas can’t really be quantified any more effectively than you can catch a man’s spirit in a pillow case.
That handshake, I will never forget.
He’s gone now.
I hate writing those words.
As if showing up is all that matters. Because even when Lucas wasn’t visible recently, he was here. You felt him everywhere.
And you always will.
I can't believe he's dead... whatta great coach you were you will be surly missed.
Last edited by AznTacoLover : 11-01-2010 at 12:47 AM.
As the end neared, Maurice Lucas held on just long enough. Lucas, the former Trail Blazers great, died Sunday surrounded by family members in his home after a long, grueling battle with bladder cancer. He was 58. "Our whole family was there," his son, David, said Monday. Oregonian
Another son, Maurice Jr., flew from Japan, where he is stationed with the Air Force. The family had to put in an emergency request through the Red Cross to allow him to take leave, and he arrived within 24 hours, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. "We were telling my dad, hold on, Maurice is coming," David Lucas said. "So we had all the family. His brother, his sister, all his siblings, and their (spouses) made it, and he passed away at 5:35 p.m. last night in my brother's arms." Oregonian