KPTV reports Maurice Lucas was honored today at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. He was with the crowd in spirit.
Lucas, part of the team when the Trail Blazers won their only NBA Championship in 1977, passed away Oct. 31 after an extended fight against cancer. A memorial No. 20 jersey patch will be worn each game of this season, which is dedicated to his memory. This is a fitting tribute to a man who played hard on the court, with his coaching career, and as a participant in many civic activities designed to help others.
I remember the intense, focused look in “The Enforcer’s” eyes when he lined up for a free throw. I never doubted that the shot would be true. Maurice Lucas did not back down from looming players, but held his ground. I don’t think it was a mistake that the Portland Trail Blazers went to the playoffs in 1977 and won the whole enchilada. Lucas had his mind set on something great, and put forth all the effort humanly possible to rein in a championship with his new team.
There are many good players in every sport. Lucas achieved that and went a couple of steps further. He recognized the importance of having an active voice in the representation of the game, holding the position of Vice President of the NBA Players Association for seven years, later acting as a board member of the NBA Retired Players Association. According to ESPN Sports, he was unable to return this season as assistant coach for the Blazers due to the progression of his cancer.
I particularly recall reading about his baby girl, Kristin, who decided to enter the world a bit too soon, weighing just one-pound, six-ounces. Lucas-Swoopes Basketball indicated that Maurice assumed a mantle of responsibility for the parents and infants who were unable to get the care needed due to the expense of special surgeries, hospitalization, and travel, raising over $1.5 million for charities that assist families with special medical needs.
Other Good Samaritan activities he took part in included National Spokesman for the United Way, sitting on the advisory board for Portland State University and Cerebral Palsy, and Treasurer for Citizens Against Crime. As Regional Spokesman for the Jimmy Heuga Skiing Foundation, he helped gain contributions to fight multiple sclerosis. According to the mini biography in the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, that vicious condition hit Heuga while he was still an Olympic ski racer. Heuga fought back, continuing to race, living a healthier lifestyle, and showing the world that giving up was not the only answer. Perhaps this inspired Lucas in one of his final good deeds on this earth.
I am deeply impressed that, in spite of his pain and continuous medical treatments, Maurice took the time to found the Maurice Lucas Foundation for the purpose of enhancing the future of youth sports and increasing cancer awareness. I believe he considered that a three-point goal, as awareness, early detection, and the determination to fight back against cancer will help defeat that disease.
KPTV, Fans to remember Maurice Lucas at Memorial
ESPN Sports NBA, Blazers Great Maurice Lucas dies at 58
Maurice Lucas & Sheryl Swoopes All-in-One Basketball
World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, Jimmy Heuga