When Damian Lillard surpassed Clyde Drexler as the leading scorer Portland Trail Blazers history last week, Portland feted Lillard accordingly. Blazers broadcasts, media personalities, fans, teammates, and fellow NBA players all praised Lillard’s prowess and commitment.
In comparison, Drexler’s voice was muted. He didn’t issue any statements on social media. His son, Adam, claimed that Drexler called Lillard to congratulate him, but that was it.
This has led to a bit of rumbling around Blazers Nation, providing the subject for this Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
It is just me, or has Clyde been conspicuously absent from comment on Dame passing his record?
Where’s Clyde in all of this franchise record breaking? It would have been a great chance to have handshakes at center court and remember good old days and it feels like we’re ushering in a new king in a vacuum.
I don’t know how much everybody remembers Clyde Drexler from back in the day, but he was never the most communicative dude. Sure, he sat in the big chair and gave interviews when called upon, but he wasn’t exactly eloquent and forthcoming. His responses tended to be cliched. He wasn’t a bad interview at all! He just wasn’t at Lillard’s level of engagement and charisma.
This isn’t surprising. Media was different back then. Getting on camera at all was unusual. Apart from sports radio hosts, you could count people who got out more than two sentences at a time on three fingers. Clyde’s generation wasn’t born with a microphone and camera in their hands the way people are now.
Drexler did develop a media personality eventually. He became a head coach and a color commentator, both of which require communication. But, significantly, he did both in Houston, not Portland. Houston is his home. He won titles there. He has connections with that franchise. He’s a personality, a voice there. None of those things are true of Portland.
There’s little or no organic connection between Drexler and the Blazers nowadays. There hasn’t been for years. He left the organization under a shadow, lamenting a General Manager he didn’t like, a series of dreams unfulfilled. The Blazers didn’t go out of their way to honor him after his career and contributions to the franchise either. We don’t know exactly how much of that cool distance bled over to Paul Allen, but the Allen family still owns the joint, just as they did when Clyde left. Environmentally, interpersonally, the ties just aren’t there, apparently.
Under those circumstances, it’d be odd—almost mercenary—to trot Clyde out for a ceremony. Drexler couldn’t initiate it himself. The Blazers would be in an awkward position to. “I know we haven’t talked in a while, but we want you to come to town so we can honor you. Well, not exactly honor you...we want to honor the guy who’s taking your place in the record books. We need you to shake his hand publicly, so people can feel good about him surpassing your legacy, which again, we didn’t really make that much of in the first place. So whaddya say?”
I’d bet that if the Blazers planned an All-Time Franchise Greats ceremony, Drexler would be willing to come. I’m guessing he’d even be cool with Lillard being introduced last, as the greatest scorer—and maybe player—in franchise history. If Clyde had wanted that honor, he could have stuck with the team, given up the Houston championships, and he’d still be 4100 points ahead of Dame on Portland’s rolls.
But asking for a lot of fanfare from Drexler when the franchise has not given much to him (compared to his former prominence) is odd. If his voice and presence were that important, where have they been the last 30 years? Emphasizing Drexler’s status only at the moment it’s being displaced isn’t really charitable, nor should extra effort be expected from Clyde under those circumstances. Congratulate Dame however you do it, let the fans remember the 1990-1992 successes too, and we all can move on.
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