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The Trail Blazers Jerome Kersey Tribute: Behind the Scenes

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SI's Ben Golliver tells how a celebration for a franchise legend came about

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated published today a lengthy article about the late Jerome Kersey and  what it took for the Portland Trail Blazer family to make the arrangements for the video tribute at last night's game.  It's a must-read piece.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- "Crisis management" has become a sports fixture in the social media age, a term that comes up every time there's an ugly off-the-court incident or a regrettable Twitter post. But how does an organization respond when confronted with a true crisis, like the shocking death of a team employee who also happens to be one of the most popular players in franchise history?

Last week, the Portland Trail Blazers found out. The phone rang, just like in the movies, and the voice on the other end confirmed the devastating news. Jerome Kersey, a Blazers icon and fixture in the Portland community, had died suddenly, just hours after leaving his office at the team's Northeast Portland headquarters. Now what?

Portland Trail Blazer president Chris McGowan got that call, but several other Blazer personnel who worked every day with Jerome, who was director of alumni relations, had already received it.  Michael Lewellen, VP of Corporate Communications, had seen Jerome earlier that day and was suddenly faced with a crisis management problem.

"You can't 'crisis manage' the sincerity [of your organization's response], but you can 'crisis manage' the process," Lewellen said. "We have a plan for all types of crises, so we are prepared. But there's no practice."

That Wednesday night as so many players and fans were expressing sorrow on Twitter the management team was already working on a concept for a tribute, and they knew they were faced with a deadline of the next home game so they had only two business days to do it.

"We wanted to honor his legacy and make it authentic for fans," Lewellen said. "Something that could be pulled off tastefully and something that fans could connect with during an emotional time. You don't want to go over the top and you don't want to shortcut, either."

Golliver writes about the thoughts of Dwight Jaynes, Jason Quick, and Kerry Eggers and of their stories about Kersey.  He ends with these words:

Finally, midway through the first quarter, it was time for the tribute video. The comments from Porter and Schonely ran alongside highlights from Kersey's career, including a thunderous dunk against the Lakers. Images of post-retirement Kersey dancing alongside the cheerleaders and interacting with fans followed. Then, footage from an old interview in which Kersey declared: "It's just been a love fest with this city, and I guess I've been transplanted as an Oregonian." The video ended with "Jerome Kersey: 1962-2015" remaining on the screen for an extra beat as Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You" played at low volume over the sound system.

Take the time to read Ben's piece.

Hat tip to corvid for her Fanshot.