Has anyone else been amazed by the response of the sports and NBA community on Kevin Duckworth’s untimely passing? We’ve read the articles and, more importantly, the comments: the outpouring of support for the Duck has been fantastic – nothing less than he deserves. From fellow alumni of EIU to Chicagoans who saw him play in Harvey, IL, to Suns fans who remember how Duck torched them in the playoffs, to Spurs fans who wish they hadn’t traded him away, to people who didn’t follow basketball, but knew that the big 7 foot guy who lived across the street volunteered at the neighborhood school, Kevin Duckworth is being remember, honored and memorialized by people who, like all us, saw that there was something special about this man. There’s no question that the Duck had talents and there is also no question that on the court he had flaws. But the simple truth that everyone now seems to realize is that Kevin Duckworth’s greatest achievements may very well have been off the court and that, unlike so many others who’ve been in his position, the Duck always found time to give back to his fans, to the City of Portland and to the Portland Trailblazers. After Duck died, team president Larry Miller said, “Kevin will be remember by fans as one of the most popular and recognizable players to ever wear the Blazers uniform, but to people who knew him, he’ll be remembered as one of the warmest and biggest-hearted.” See the picture below for proof.
Imagine being Kevin Duckworth for a moment. You’ve got all sorts of talent, you work hard according to all of your teammates and coaches, and you give so freely of your time that people start to take you for granted. But there are critics. They say you’re overweight and lazy. They say you don’t live up to your potential. They say the team would be so much better if only they could have brought over that 7′ 3″ Lithuanian guy. In spite of your 2 All Star appearances and being voted the Most Improved Player, you’re still sensitive to the jabs, jeers and insults you get when you’re on the road. People chanting “What’s a Duck worth?” in an attempt to humiliate you. Is it any wonder that people say Kevin Duckworth was sensitive and self-conscious? To me, it seems like that’s the only thing a reasonable person would be in the face of constant criticism and comparison with people beyond comparison like Clyde. Maybe what is surprising is the fact that the Duck always seemed like a normal guy, a real person, who just happened to be built like a giant. And that’s why his story is one we can easily identify with on a personal level and one that should be remember in Blazers history.
From the beginning this blog has been about things not encapsulated by statistics or reported on by the great journalists out there in the real media world. This blog is about the perspective from the 300 level – where the air is thin on oxygen, but overloaded with die-hard blazermaniacs. For some reason, I think the Duck would’ve liked it up in the 300s with us (and you). So we’re not content to let the Duck’s legacy be forgotten – we’ve come up with these ideas of how this team and this City should honor Kevin Duckworth.
1. Have Greg Oden wear the number #00 for the first game of the season. (GO strikes me as a guy who would do this and it would only be for one game.)
2. Have all Blazers players wear a #00 in white text on a black background all season, on the upper right strap of their jerseys.
3. Rename a section of the Rose Garden’s 300 level “Duck’s Deck” forever. The organization could also sponsor seats in this area for local charities and schools that Duckworth has worked with.
4. Name or rename the fountain outside the Rose Garden the “Duck Pond” and put a small plaque honor the Duck.
5. Retire the number #00. Seriously, other than #22, is any other player’s number as well known?
We need your support. We can’t ask for all of these, but we think something special is appropriate for the Duck. When this is presented to the Blazers organization, it is absolutely essential that we can show them a broad base of fan support. We (BlazersOG) don’t care if we get credit for it – we just want to be sure it happens. So, please, please give us your comments below and forward this to your friends so we can remember the big man who gave us so much. If someone wants to push this forward on their own, that’s fantastic. We’re all blazers fans and that’s what matters here.