On Oct. 31, 2010, former Portland Trail Blazers power forward Maurice “The Enforcer” Lucas passed away at his home in Portland at the age of 58 after a prolonged battle with bladder cancer. Lucas was also a former star player at Marquette, and played two seasons in the long-defunct ABA. Lucas also served as an assistant coach for the Trail Blazers from 2005-2009, until his illness took him from courtside.
Lucas is probably best known for leading the Trail Blazers to the 1976-1977 NBA Finals Championship. His “Enforcer” label was something that followed him from the courts of the ABA to the NBA, as Lucas had developed a reputation for being an extremely physical player. His number was retired by the Trailblazers in 1988. A public memorial service will be held at Memorial Coliseum for fans to pay tribute.
While playing in the ABA, Lucas’ reputation began when he got into an altercation with Artis Gilmore, which resulted in Lucas dropping the seven-foot center with one punch. This is just one of the incidents that rewarded the six-foot-nine forward with the title of basketball’s intimidator. He was also known for being a ferocious defender of his teammates and wouldn’t hesitate to defend them against any foe.
An example of this is the melee that occurred during the 1976 -1977 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. After going up for a rebound, 76ers center Daryl Dawkins got entangled with a member of the Trail Blazers. Dawkins went down to the floor hard and then ran and threw a punch at the player. Lucas, being the ever-present guardian of his teammates, came from behind and gave Dawkins a forearm to the back of the head. The two big men then squared off at each other, resulting in one of the most memorable brawls in sports history.
These actions to some may seem trivial, but they are parts of Lucas’ protective legacy. He was a man who was admired and celebrated by both players and fans alike. Lucas was the ever-present embodiment of the true protector, and he gave his heart and soul in every game he played. Maurice Lucas was a man who let his play do his talking and he backed it all up on the floor. We should all pay tribute to a man amongst men who just did things the right way.