NCAA March Madness is just around the corner. In homage to the great annual event we’re running a Portland Trail Blazers bracket here at Blazer’s Edge this month. The second round happens this weekend, and boy, are the choices getting tough!
The idea came from an article from Dia Miller and Dave Deckard, detailing the Blazers they’d most like to see one more time. The piece was fun and well-received, so we’re making a bracket of 16 candidates and letting you vote for your favorites. Eventually we’ll see which player you’d most like to bring back for one more go.
Here are the conventions:
- We’re not including Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler, since everyone should want them back for overwhelming talent and impact purposes. They count as, “Anytime, Anywhere” legends.
- You can vote in the comments or on Twitter @blazersedge. We won’t get as many votes that way as if we just opened a poll, but the discussion is important as well.
- You don’t necessarily have to consider the current roster or the state of the team as you make your choices, but you can. You’re voting for the player you’d most love to see suit up for one more season. The qualities/memories of that individual player are the most important things. Helping the current team is a bonus which can weigh in your decision, but doesn’t have to.
- Sadly, we’ve lost some of the players on this list. We remember them with honor and thank their families for sharing them with us through basketball so we could appreciate and remember them.
- Go ahead and envision the best Blazers version of each player. That’s part of the fun!
The last matchup of the second round features two achingly-good forwards, beloved on and off the court. Good luck with this one!
Jerome Kersey needs no introduction. Drafted in the second round out of tiny Longwood College, Kersey smashed his way onto the Blazers’ roster despite doubts from coaches and executives, unseating high-scoring forward Kiki Vandeweghe to own Portland’s starting spot for more than half a decade. Kersey was a ferocious dunker, a hard-nosed defender, and developed a nice jump shot to go along with his incredible strength and leaping ability. His career high average came in 1987-88 when he scored 19.2 per game, but he was sharing court space with Clyde Drexler. That pairing proved nearly-insurmountable because both scorers watched out for each other and scaled back their individual attempts in favor of the team. In different circumstances, Kersey could have been a 20-point producer easily.
And then there was stuff like this:
Kersey didn’t have the three-point shot, so he might not translate seamlessly into your modern “3-and-D” small forward spot, but his toughness, defense, and refusal to bow to any limitations would translate into any era.
Kersey swept Scottie Pippen out of the first round, with readers citing longevity, franchise loyalty, and explosiveness, along with his unmissable personality. MVP-level prime Pippen may have had a shot, but Blazers Pippen couldn’t compare. Can this highly-admired power forward put up more of a fight?
Brian Grant needs no introduction in Portland. Part of the sweeping infusion of talent under GM Bob Whitsitt, the “Rasta Monsta” provided the Blazers with grit, heart, superb rebounding, and low-post scoring. Playing alongside Rasheed Wallace and Arvydas Sabonis, Grant could have gotten lost. Instead he pulsed as the heart of the team. Nobody who saw them will ever forget his playoffs duels with Utah Jazz Hall-of-Famer Karl Malone. The bruises may still be healing from that matchup. But Grant wasn’t limited to blue-collar work. He had a few moves in his pocket as well, the chiefest of which was never giving up on a play:
Many would argue that the spirit of the ultra-talented late-1990’s/early-2000’s Blazers teams departed when Whitsitt traded Grant to the Miami Heat in 2000 for Shawn Kemp. Portland wasn’t going to pay the veteran forward and, with so many other bigs in the rotation, he looked expendable. As it turned out, he wasn’t.
Not giving up would be a fine quality to add to the current Blazers roster. The chance to see Grant play again would be heartwarming as well.
The Rasta Monsta narrowly beat out fellow blue-collar icon Wesley Matthews in Round 1. Readers cited Grant’s toughness, embodiment of the work ethic, battles with Malone, and civic heartbeat as solid reasons to support him.
What will happen in Round 2? Will you choose Kersey or Grant? Register your vote in the comments or on Twitter!