Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A sad day in Rip City

Kevin Duckworth, one of all-time most beloved members of the Trail Blazers and a key player in the playoff runs of the early 90's, passed away yesterday at the age of 44. In fitting fashion, Duck was on the Oregon coast representing the team as an alumni ambassador on the Make It Better Summer Tour. He will be sorely missed.

After Brandon Roy was named to the All-Star team last season, I did an interview with Duck regarding his two appearances in the All-Star game. We talked in a suite at the Rose Garden, Duck standing behind the bar and me sitting on a stool, like a couple of guys shooting the bull in a tavern. It's one of my favorite memories during my short tenure with the team and I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to spend some time with such a kind man.

Reading over this interview this morning, I came to a realization about the person Duckworth was. Working in the NBA, you quickly find that some players are more than happy to make you feel small, so it's ironic that a man of Duck's stature had exactly the opposite effect with a nobody like me.

Here are a few excerpts from that interview.

Casey Holdahl: Which was your favorite All-Star game you played in, the first or the second?

Kevin Duckworth:
They’re about the same really. One year I did learn that being in an All-Star game with Michael Jordan -- you an All-Star but he’s a superstar -- so it’s a whole different level of the way they treat you. Of course you’re an All-Star, but they treat him at a whole different level. And I realized that hey, you just an All-Star.

But just being there. When you’re in the locker room and you look around, my first one I saw Kareem. I was very overwhelmed because I was a Bruce Lee fan growing up as a kid. Then to see Kareem next to me, he did that movie with Bruce Lee and they became friends. That’s the only opportunity I ever had to talk to someone who actually knew Bruce Lee. So I was actually questioning him about Bruce Lee, I didn’t think about basketball. That was a great thing. Then to play with Moses Malone and guys that you always looked up to who had always been the elite guys in the league. You sit there among them, shooting crap with them, talking crap. Man I tell you what, that is the All-Star game.


Casey Holdahl: Where do your All-Star appearances stack up in regards to your other accomplishments as an NBA player?

Kevin Duckworth: It’s not up there as much as you might think. It’s a great accomplishment, but it’s not like the highlight of my career. If I was playing tennis it would be the most accomplished thing, but I’m not, I’m playing a sport with other teammates. When we all do well together, that’s when we all get the credit. So if I go out there and have a great year and we only win 20 games a season and I’ve averaging 25 points, that don’t look good to me. I look like just somebody out there just shooting every time I get the ball to score when my other teammates are playing like crap.

So to me, the highlight of my career was the success we had on the court as a team, especially when we went to the playoffs. We went to the Finals twice. We should have had two rings by far, in my heart. And to me, those are the most memorable moments in my career.


Ryan said...

This is a very sad day for the City of Portland and the Portland TrailBlazers.
I enjoyed watching Kevin Duckworth play when I was growing up. He was a phenominal basketball player, and a classy guy, warm and friendly off the court. I recall getting my picture taken with the Duck at a Blazer game just 2 years ago. I find it hard to believe that the Duck just passed away this young. There needs to be a formal investigation into this, to make sure there was no fowl play here. Kevin Duckworth was a great basketball player, and a great human being, everyone should strive to be like Kevin, because he cared alot for others, and he was very friendly and warm to anyone, a great guy, sad day for Portland !!!
I know that The Duck will be in "Heaven" looking down upon us.
God Bless the Duckworth family, and I send my prayers out to them.

Will Wiens said...

O come on don't make a bad situation worse. Are you suspecting someone had something to do with this? I all due respect to the Duckworth family let us just simply mourn for his passing and pray for a God's blessings on their family at this time.
Like you said there was not much to complain about "Duck as a man nevermind his abilities on the court. i would be shocked if anyone had it out for him, and if that was the case you can call me out.
But I hope portland wears a 00 symbol on their jerseys somewhere this and retire his jersey out of respect, once again, not only for the player, but more the man he was. I hope to see "Duck" after i greet my family in Heaven. Rise in Peace.

Professional Services said...

The Blazers have always seemed to have great big guys in some way shape or form... Walton, Duckworth, Sabonis, Wallace...

Duckworth is a good guy and remains so...... in fact, he's bigger than he's ever been.

Later Duckworth. - James

Don-n-ABQ said...

Remembering Kevin on my blog

Unknown said...

I second all of the comments about Duckworth. I was glad I was able to tell him last year how much I remembered his sitting and talking to my 6 year old daughter 19 years ago and making her feel great at a meet the Blazers event. (She died in a car accident 3 years later, and although I didn't tell him that, I'm sure she is welcoming him in heaven). He will always be remembered.