Two-time All-Star Duckworth remembered as 'gentle giant'


Former Portland Trail Blazers center Kevin Duckworth, a "gentle giant" with a feathery touch from the paint, has died at 44.

He was on a Trail Blazers goodwill tour and 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 team said the cause of his death would be determined by a medical examiner. The sheriff's office said there was no indication of foul play.

Duckworth played seven years for the Blazers, along with the likes of Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Buck Williams and Jerome Kersey.

Twice, he appeared in All-Star games, and twice the team won the Western Conference title.

In the summer of 1988 he signed an eight-year, $16-million contract with the Blazers. In the 1988-89 season, he averaged 18.1 points a game and eight rebounds, playing in 79 games.

He was 7 feet tall and pushed 300 pounds, hard. He struggled unsuccessfully to control his weight during his career, and put on many pounds afterward.

"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," said team President Larry Miller.

Former Blazers broadcaster Bill Schonley recalled Duckworth as a "gentle giant" and an affectionate man who loved to hug people.

"When you got hugged by Kevin Duckworth, you got hugged," he said Tuesday.

Duckworth grew up in the Chicago area and was drafted out of Eastern Illinois University by the San Antonio Spurs in 1986. Soon, they traded him to the Trail Blazers.

After the 1991-92 season he was traded to the Washington Bullets, playing there two years and then a year each for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers before retiring in 1997.

In 11 NBA seasons, he averaged 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds.

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

Larry Webb, the owner of Royal Marine Yacht Sales in Portland, said he met Duckworth years ago shopping for boats and Duckworth eventually worked in sales for him for about a year in 2006.

"Kevin didn't do boat sales for the money," Webb said. "He just needed something to do ... He was so kind to people. I think he was a very good person, and I think the city is going to miss him."

Duckworth played at Thornridge High School on Chicago's South Side before entering Eastern Illinois in 1983, said former Eastern Illinois coach Rick Samuels, recalling that Duckworth fouled out quickly in his first collegiate game.

Later, his potential emerged in a game featuring another future NBA center, Samuels said.

"During the midpoint of the season we played at Missouri, and Kevin matched up against Steve Stipanovich," Samuels said. "Kevin finished that game with a double-double, and it was at that point that I think he realized he might have a future in basketball."

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