Yesterday, Clyde Drexler was announced as an inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, which as a longtime Trail Blazer fan made me very happy. But perhaps even more than that, I was glad to see that Drexler has chosen to go in as a Blazer. This choice had been very much in doubt, because when he was introduced during halftime of the NBA all-star game a few years ago as one of the 50 greatest players of all time (for the league's 50th anniversary), Drexler was cited as "from the Houston Rockets", which I assume was his choice.
Although Houston is where Drexler won a championship, there is no doubt that he played his best basketball in Portland. The fact that Clyde chose to align himself for eternity with the Blazers is a real source of pride. To my knowledge, he's only the second player to go in to the Hall in a Portland uniform, after Bill Walton.
Drexler has always been my all-time favorite Trail Blazer. Because I was only 5 years old when Walton's 1977 team won the championship, Clyde's Blazer era is also the one I have the most fondness for. The teams he was part of in the early 1990s were routinely among the league's best, as evidenced by two Western Conference championships in three years. And their up-tempo style under Rick Adelman made the team so exciting to watch. It seemed like whenever a member of the opposing team missed a shot, Clyde was racing down the court with Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams (and Kevin Duckworth trailing behind), with Drexler flying through the air on many a spectacular dunk. Like Michael Jordan, Drexler was big and strong enough to post up like a small forward, but quick and elusive enough to take anybody on the dribble. Plus Drexler had an indefinable sense of physical grace and style that was more than just speed or the ability to make shots. He just looked so good playing the game.
Of course it still hurts thinking of how close those Blazer teams came to winning a championship only to come up short. In particular, I'll always remember the 1991 season, the one in between their two Finals losses to Detroit and Chicago, when the Blazers had the NBA's best record at 63-19 but were tripped up in the Western Conference Finals by those damn Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, I'll always love Clyde the Glide, and thank God I don't have to be bitter over his wearing another team's jersey for all-time.