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. 55 | Darnell Valentine
Games Played with Blazers: 300 Regular Season, 21 Postseason
*PTS: 9.8 | AST: 5.4 | STL: 1.6 | FG%: 44.9
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: June 1981, 16th overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft
Departed Club: January 1986, traded with a pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for more picks
Place in History: Legendary Portland Trail Blazers Coach Jack Ramsay was a physical fitness buff. He encouraged players to run, develop endurance, and stay fit as part of their regimen. With point guard Darnell Valentine, he needn’t have bothered. The 1981 draftee was way ahead of the program.
Valentine played with a chiseled body, massive legs, and a commitment to playing the game the way it was meant to be played. For a point guard that meant passing, defense, and having a head on swivel. Valentine seldom failed in any of those departments. He may not have been the best point guard on the roster at any given time. At various times Kelvin Ransey, Fat Lever, Steve Colter, and Terry Porter all shared a locker room with Darnell. Like BBQ chips and those colored wedding mints, the Blazers couldn’t stop themselves from going back for more Valentine.
Efficiency typified Valentine’s game. He didn’t score a ton because he didn’t take a lot of shots. His 45% average from the field indicated not just shooting skill, but a sharp eye for when and how to get his looks. His per-minute assist and steals rates were equal to, sometimes above, Lever’s. And oh, what he did in the playoffs. The combination of stamina and smarts served him well when everybody else was playing their 92nd game of the season. In 1983-84 against a STACKED Phoenix Suns team, Valentine would average 18.4 points, 8.4 assists, 1.8 steals, and 50% shooting...all above his regular-season numbers. He knew when, and how, to turn it on while still fitting in with all the higher-rotation players around him.
Despite the constant swirl of point guards around him, Valentine’s playing time increased through 1985, but he battled injuries throughout. When Porter came on board, the writing was on the wall. The Blazers traded Valentine to the Los Angeles Clippers for a draft pick that would later become Arvydas Sabonis...one last assist on the way out the door. In the early Brandon Roy years, Valentine would return to the franchise, working with the young Blazers on personal development. He was also active with the NBA Players Association for many years.
For being the right guy in so many different situations, providing an example of old-school point guard ethic, and the marvelous playoffs runs, Darnell Valentine earns the 55th spot in our Top 100 List of Trail Blazers players and influencers.
Share your memories of Darnell below, and keep with us this week as we round the halfway pole and head home towards #1!