David Halberstam on Maurice Lucas in his classic book, Breaks Of The...
on Maurice Lucas in his classic book, Breaks Of The Game
It was, Ramsay knew, always going to be a test of wills with Luke. Of the blacks on the team, he was by far the most political and also the most willing to test authority, any authority. Some of the other blacks, Ron Brewer and T.R. Dunn, for example, had grown up in the South and had gone to southern schools; there was, some coaches thought, a lack of assertiveness to their play, something the coaches suspected could be traced back to their childhoods, to that region where, despite significant social change, authority still belonged to whites and blacks remained tentative about expressing their feelings openly, whether in politics or sports. But there was no problem like that with Maurice Lucas, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, late of the Hill district of the ghetto. Sometimes the Portland front office, talking about a particular player in college or on another team, used the phrase, and to them it was a positive: obedient kid. Obedient kid. Maurice Lucas was most demonstrably not an obedient kid. He was very black, very articulate, very political, a strong and independent man sprung from circumstances that could also create great insecurity. There was about him a constant sense of challenge; everything was a struggle, and everything was a potential confrontation, a struggle for turf and position. It was in part what had made him at his best so exceptional an athlete. He liked the clash of will. He was at once an intensely proud black man, justifiably angry about the injustice around him, and a superb and subtle con artist, a man who had in effect invented himself and his persona -- Luke the Intimidator. When he was making demands, when he talked about race being an issue at point, it was sometimes hard to tell which Maurice Lucas was talking -- the Lucas who genuinely believed he was a victim of such obvious American racism, or the Lucas who knew that his cause was more dramatic if he deliberately cloaked it in himself. Indeed, it was not possible at certain times to tell if he himself knew. (He was capable of complaining that Portland would never pay a black superstar what it would pay a white superstar, which was possibly correct, and, in the next breath, of complaining about the fact that Mychal Thompson, a rookie, who was also, it happened, black, had made twice as much in his rookie year as Luke made, then in his third year in Portland.)
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