Very sad news to report tonight, as Portland Trail Blazers legend Jerome Kersey has unexpectedly passed away. He was 52. The Blazers released the following statement this evening:
TRAIL BLAZERS GREAT JEROME KERSEY PASSES SUDDENLY AT AGE 52
PORTLAND, Ore. (February 18, 2015) – A beloved figure and one of the most prolific Portland Trail Blazers, Jerome Kersey, has passed away at age 52. Cause of death has not been confirmed. A long-time resident of Portland after his 17-year NBA career, Kersey was employed by the Trail Blazers as Director of Alumni Relations as part of the team’s Social Responsibility Department.
"Today we lost an incredible person and one of the most beloved players to ever wear a Trail Blazers uniform," said Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen. "My thoughts and condolences are with the Kersey family. He will be missed by all of us. It’s a terrible loss."
"We’re shocked to lose such a great member of our Trail Blazers family," said Trail Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan. "The news is so sudden, and we’re sure more details will be forthcoming. But it is indeed a sad day for our organization, the city of Portland and the NBA. Jerome will be remembered not only for his incredible contributions on the court, but his tremendous impact in our community."
"Jerome was an incredible influence on our players as a model for life after basketball," said Trail Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey. "He set the bar extremely high with his long-lasting influence in this community."
Kersey was part of the great early 90s Portland nucleus that led the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. He ranks fifth on the team’s all-time scoring list (10,067) and third in rebounds (5,078) after an 11-year tenure in Portland from 1984-95. He continued his career with Golden State, L.A. Lakers, Seattle, San Antonio and Milwaukee, and he won an NBA Championship with the Spurs in 1999.
Information about a celebration of life for Kersey and other arrangements is still forthcoming from the Kersey family and the Trail Blazers.
Kersey was a legend to every fan who watched him thunder down a dunk off the fast break, or hustle to the ground for any loose ball, back in the '80s and '90s. At his peak, he was an explosive player, to the point that the NBA included him in the All-Star Dunk Contest from 1986 to 1989. In 1987 he finished in second place behind Michael Jordan.
Kersey played with the Blazers for 11 seasons from 1984 to 1995. In 1988, he averaged 17.2 points per game, but pulled back his scoring as the starting five came together for gel for multiple runs to the Finals. He eventually left the Blazers for the Toronto Raptors in the expansion draft, but instead moved to the Golden State Warriors. He eventually joined the San Antonio Spurs, where he won his only NBA Title in 1999, defeating the Blazers in the Conference Finals along the way.
Always active in the Portland community, Kersey was just seen yesterday giving Terry Porter a big hug after speaking at Madison High School for Black History Month:
On a personal note, Jerome has always been the standard by which other Blazers are measured: He gave his all on the court, and he was loyal, dedicated, and worked every day to maximize the talents he had. If the Blazers could have fifteen Jerome Kerseys on the team, it would have been my favorite. He was an amazing representative for the team, and it just won't be the same without him around, happily chatting with anyone he met. After spending a week looking at the possible future of the Blazers in trade, I received a sharp reminder of a past I enjoyed so much, and a player I always admired on the court.
Everyone at Blazer's Edge wish to express their sadness at the news, and send along our condolences to all who were close to Jerome.
UPDATE: Dwight Jaynes at Comcast SportsNet Northwest provided further detail:
Kersey underwent a knee surgery earlier this week and Wednesday reportedly told fellow Trail Blazer employees at the team's Rose Quarter office that he wasn't feeling well and was going to go home. He apparently collapsed on the way to his car. Cause of death is unknown at the time this is written.
However, there is conflicting information that will likely be sorted out overnight:
.@kasiahall of The Oregonian reports that Lake Oswego Fire Dept. was called to Kersey's home around 5 p.m.; he was taken to hospital.— Mike Tokito (@mtokito) February 19, 2015
Jaynes also provided a quote from former Blazers Guard Clyde Drexler:
"It is so sad," said former Portland teammate Clyde Drexler, his voice cracking over the telephone. "It is a huge loss for the Portland community. He was the greatest guy, the nicest friend, teammate and brother. He was loved by everyone. We will all miss him. He just cared so much. This is unbelievable."
REACTION: Reaction has come in quickly from current and former Blazers, as well as around the league.
R.I.P Jerome kersey ,Spoke to him regularly about life and the ups and downs of a NBA season. Gone too soon, much love! Prayers 2 the family— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) February 19, 2015
Steve Johnson, a Blazers teammate of Jerome Kersey from 1986-1989: "I just heard. I can't talk. Not right now.''— Jason Quick (@jwquick) February 19, 2015
Rip Jerome Kersey...— Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) February 19, 2015
RIP Jerome Kersey always showed me love when I saw him. Prayers to his fam— Will Barton (@WillTheThrillB5) February 19, 2015
I'm sad 1 of the all time blazers greats and friend of mine Jerome Kersey passed away! RIP JK you'll be missed!!— Damon Stoudamire (@Iambiggie503) February 19, 2015
RIP to @jkersey25— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 19, 2015
No, please no. #JeromeKersey a giant of a man who never made anyone feel small. Kindness personified. Thoughts and prayers to his family.— Mark Mason (@MarkMasonPDX) February 19, 2015
RIP Jerome. You will be missed.— Kiki VanDeWeghe (@KikiVanDeWeghe) February 19, 2015
@NBAcom I loved matching up against Jerome in our Jazz vs Blazers rivalries. Awesome competitor and wonderful friend. I will miss him!— Thurl Bailey (@bigTbailey) February 19, 2015