*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, 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 off it.
“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.
The former Marquette player 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 10.8 rebounds.
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.”