Today is obviously a very tough day for Portland Trail Blazers fans with the news that Maurice Lucas died on Sunday at 58 after fighting cancer.
Many of the obituaries of Lucas remember him quite correctly as an enforcer whose tough-guy approach was integral to the Blazers winning their only championship in the 1976-77 season. Lucas, a power forward, did a lot of the dirty work that allowed center Bill Walton to flourish in that season.
But what shouldn’t get lost in the memories is what a skilled player Lucas could be on the offensive end. His signature move was to pump-fake his defender 10-12 feet away from the basket. Lucas, who averaged 20 points a game in the championship season, would then either fire a tiptoe jumper if the defender didn’t bite on the fake, or drive past the defender if he jumped. And a Lucas basket was always followed by the Memorial Coliseum crowd shouting “Luuuuuke.”
For a generation of Blazers fans, that move (along with his challenge of behemoth Philadelphia center Darryl Dawkins in Game 2 of the 1977 NBA Finals) lingers among the indelible memories of a crafty, hard-nosed player who made the NBA All-Star team four times for his defensive and offensive prowess.His bond with Blazers fans was special (He was my all-time favorite Blazer and I feebly tried to emulate him on the basketball court by always asking for his number #20 when I played). Lucas will be missed.