PORTLAND, Ore. -- Maurice Lucas, the fierce power forward known as "The
Enforcer" who helped lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title,
has died after a long fight with bladder cancer. He was 58.
Lucas, a former Schenley High School and Marquette University star, who in
later years was an assistant coach with the Blazers, died Sunday at his home
in Portland, the team said.
Lucas joined Portland in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft and averaged a
team-high 20.2 points and grabbbed 11.2 rebounds per game in the 1976-77
championship season. His No. 20 was retired by the Blazers in 1988.
At public appearances, fans often greeted Lucas with cries of "Luuuuuuke!"
His competitive demeanor on the court was in contrast to his gentle nature
"We have lost a champion of a man," Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said
in a statement. "Maurice was a great man and a great friend. He battled his
illness like the warrior he was on the basketball court."
Lucas served as an assistant coach with the Blazers for six seasons, but
last year he left the team to undergo surgery before suffering a setback
last November. He did not return to coaching this season.
Lucas averaged 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds in 12 NBA seasons with Portland,
New Jersey, New York, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers and Seattle. In two
seasons in the ABA with St. Louis and Kentucky, he averaged 15.2 points and
He was a five-time All-Star.
Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen also praised Lucas in a statement released
late Sunday night.
"Maurice Lucas was an amazing man and I count myself lucky to have known
him. We all -- players, coaches, the owner and the fans -- were made better
by having Maurice a part of our team, whether playing on the championship
team or, most recently as an assistant coach.
"He was one of the greatest Blazers ever."
Before last season, an interview with Lucas was posted on the Trail Blazers'
official website, covering topics including his health, his work with center
Greg Oden and the team's 40th anniversary.
"The one thing that I'm finding is an issue for me is learning patience,
being patient with myself. I'm trying to understand what this process is all
about. It takes a little longer amount of time than I'd like it to take in
order to recover," Lucas said. "But it is what it is and I'm not in charge
of it. I've just got to play my role, be patient, feed myself well, take the
right meds and see if I can get back on track."
Lucas led Marquette to the 1974 NCAA title game against North Carolina State
and was selected to the All-Final Four team along with future Portland
teammate Bill Walton. The 6-foot-9 former Schenley star averaged 15.8 points
and 10.6 rebounds as a junior that season.
Marquette also retired his No. 20 and inducted him into its Hall of Fame,
and Walton named his son Luke, who currently plays for the Lakers, after
"I hadn't seen him as much lately, but he and my dad still talked all the
time," Luke Walton said. "From what I heard, he had been in some pain for a
while. It's tough. He's a great guy."
The Trail Blazers were in the midst of a four-game trip, with a game against
the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.
"We were so fortunate to have his influence on the young men on this team.
He was my mentor, my big brother, and I always knew he had my back. He has
left us far too soon," McMillan said.
Lucas is survived by wife Pamela, sons David and Maurice II and daughter
Kristin. Funeral arrangements were yet to be determined.