The City of Portland is still wiping away its collective tears after losing one of the fiercest competitors to ever put on an NBA uniform. Jerome Kersey may have been primarily noted for his dominant play on the court, yet his contributions to the Trailblazers organization on the whole is a testament to his hard work and dedication to the game of basketball, community outreach, and being an all-around unselfish person who contributed to the game in many other areas after his retirement in 2001.
Outside the Moda Center, formerly known as The Rose Garden where Kersey played for 11 years, a memorial surrounding the Rip City sculpture grew throughout the game and beyond. During warm-ups, the team wore T-shirts with the #JK25 insignia stamped across the front. Blazers Point guard Steve Blake changed his jersey number from 5 to 25 in memory of the Portland fan favorite.
Former teammates Terry Porter, Clyde Drexler and a number of Portland legends expressed their sadness in losing a great friend and reliable frontcourt presence. Kersey’s career with the Blazers included two trips to the NBA finals in 1990 and 1992; both appearances went six games as Portland first fell to the bad boy Pistons and then the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.
Jerome’s numbers while in Portland were more than impressive; the team made the playoffs in each of his 11 seasons and in 1988 he averaged over 19 PPG and eight rebounds to match. Also known as one of the best all-around players during his tenure, the 6′ 7″, 215 pound Kersey kept many opposing teams on their heels. From monster dunks to incredible passing abilities, his defensive skills completed his repertoire as he became a force to be reckoned with.
After leaving the Blazer organization in 1995, Kersey went on to play with the Lakers, Bucks, Warriors and Supersonics; finally in 1999 he won a championship ring with the Spurs, yet he’ll always be remembered as a Blazer, first and foremost. Jerome’s college days at Longwood University in Virginia helped him develop the necessary skills to reach the big stage, and in his senior year he led the NCAA in rebounding and became one of the best-kept-secrets in the second round of the historic 1984 NBA draft.
Over his 17-year professional career he averaged over 10 PPG and five RPG, and after his playing days he went on to be the assistant coach of the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2004-05 season under former teammate and head coach Terry Porter. Most recently he became an ambassador for the Blazers and contributed as a commentator for Blazers broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet.
Passing away at age 52, Jerome Kersey will be sadly missed in his community and the basketball world as well. On Monday, March 2nd there will be a Celebration of Life event honoring Jerome Kersey, and the event is open to the public. It will take place at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Portland, and the doors open at 3PM. Learn more about it here: Jerome Kersey Celebration of Life.