The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.
No. 56 | Fat Lever
Games Played with Blazers: 162 Regular Season, 12 Postseason
*PTS: 8.8 | AST: 4.9 | STL: 1.8 | FG%: 43.9
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: June 1982, 11th overall selection in the 1982 NBA Draft
Departed Club: June 1984, traded with Calvin Natt, Wayne Cooper, and a couple draft picks to the Denver Nuggets for Kiki Vandeweghe
Place in History: Like his predecessor at #57 Dale Davis, Lafayette “Fat” Lever is remembered here not just for his contributions to the Blazers, but for the talent he’d display, and the player he’d become, elsewhere. Davis’ best years came before his Portland tenure; Fat Lever’s came after.
Lever spent his first two NBA seasons in Portland between 1982 and 1984. The team was unsettled, having left behind the memories of the Bill Walton/Maurice Lucas championship years, but not yet fully into the Drexler-led era. All of the post-Walton squad could score. None were the ball-handling type. The team needed a point guard.
The best word to describe Lever out of the gate would be “crafty”. He was a fine athlete. He shot OK. But somehow he wormed himself into every situation until he became indispensable. You wouldn’t necessarily see him coming, but you remembered him when he left.
The stat line from Lever’s very first game—in which he didn’t start but played 32 minutes—reads: 4 steals, 7 assists, 2 rebounds, and 9 points off of 3-4 shooting. He also had 6 turnovers, but come on! The answer to, “What can Fat do?” was simple: “Everything.”
Lever’s turnovers would normalize and his shooting percentage would fall, but the steals and assists just kept on coming. He was one of the first Blazers point guard to even think about asserting himself on the glass. It didn’t surprise you when he double-doubled. Had he not been playing with so many big men in an era when guards were expected to be the first ones down the court in every situation, he might have rebounded enough to snag a triple double as a harbinger of things to come.
Unfortunately, Portland’s transition didn’t include Fat. Head Coach Jack Ramsay wanted a shooter-scorer badly enough that the Blazers traded away three starters; Calvin Natt, Wayne Cooper, and Lever—plus a couple of draft picks for perennial 20-point man Kiki Vandeweghe. To that point, it was the most audacious move the franchise had ever made. At the time, Natt seemed like the biggest loss. History would show it was Lever. He became the franchise point guard for the Denver Nuggets, averaging 17.0 points, 7.5 assists, and 7.6 rebounds over 6 season there, twice making the Western Conference All-Star team, barely missing any games before he turned 30. In the mid- to late-80’s, Lever was a talent. It was hard to look towards Colorado and think the Blazers had him in their grasp and let him go.
For the early excitement, the all-around talent, and what his career would later become, Fat Lever earns the 56th spot on our Trail Blazers Top 100 list of players and influencers.
Share your thoughts and memories of Fat Lever in the comments, and stick with us as we continue counting down to #1!