Duckworth, former Trail Blazers, dies at 44

Updated: August 26, 2008, 8:45 PM ET
Associated Press

LINCOLN CITY, Ore. -- Former Portland Trail Blazers center Kevin Duckworth, a "gentle giant" with a feathery touch from the paint, has died. He was 44.

Kevin Duckworth

Duckworth

Duckworth, part of a Trail Blazers goodwill tour, was scheduled to hold a basketball clinic on the Oregon coast when he died Monday night. The Depoe Bay Fire Department said it responded about 10 p.m. to a report of a man who was down and not breathing at Salishan Lodge at Gleneden Beach, north of Newport on the central coast.

The cause of death was to be determined by a medical examiner but the Lincoln County sheriff's office said there was no indication of foul play.

"Within the world of basketball, within those Trail Blazers teams, he was a jokester," said Phoenix Suns coach Terry Porter, who played with Duckworth. "He was a big, loving teddy bear. At times guys got frustrated because he didn't have a mean streak. He was just a great guy. He loved the team atmosphere, loved being a teammate in those successful Blazer teams."

The 7-foot Duckworth averaged 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds over 11 seasons in the NBA, helping Portland reach the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. The two-time All-Star also played for San Antonio, Washington, Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Clippers, and was named the NBA's Most Improved Player in his second year in the league.

Remembering Duckworth

TrueHoop's Henry Abbott will always remember Kevin Duckworth for his starring role in the most exciting basketball game Abbott has seen in person. Blog

"Kevin will be remembered 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," Trail Blazers president Larry Miller said.

Porter said Duckworth had battled weight problems recently.

"You wake up in the morning and it's your first news of the day, it just kind of hits you," Porter told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "For me, I spent so much time with that young man and had so much success with him. It really hurt. It's almost like losing a brother."

Duckworth grew up in the Chicago area and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs out of Eastern Illinois University in 1986.

The Spurs traded him that season to the Trail Blazers, where he had his greatest success, playing with Porter, Clyde Drexler, Buck Williams and Jerome Kersey on two Western Conference championship teams.

Duckworth remained in the Portland area after he retired in 1997, doing woodwork, fishing and hunting. He ran a construction company in Northern California for a time, and a restaurant venture in Vancouver, Wash., with former NBA player Kermit Washington went out of business.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press