The legend of the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets Clyde Drexler was one of the best players of his generation, and in the 15 NBA seasons, Drexler proved to be a great all-around player. At the beginning of his career, he was best known for his spectacular dunks.
Lord on the basketball court
Clyde Drexler was born on June 22, 1962, in New Orleans, Louisiana. When he was three years old he moved with his mother Eunice to Houston. At that moment Clyde’s father James Drexler wasn’t a factor in his son’s life. Clyde had the destiny of many NBA players who were raised by single mothers. Clyde’s mother raised seven children.
“She was our mother and father, too,” Clyde said. “And it was super done. I have immense respect for her. “
There were no bad words for father James, and he does not mind. Clyde was always a gentleman, both on a basketball court and outside.
“My father would send me a greeting perhaps once a year, for my birthday or for Christmas, but you did not think much about it because you did not know anything better either. I wish he contacted his children more often, but he did the best he could. “
Eunice lived with her children in a three-room house, and she worked in the store.
“We have never been hungry. We did not have much money, but it was not that bad. We were very connected” Clyde said.
Clyde loved sport as a kid, especially American football. In high school, he became a starter in a basketball team only in the third year of high school. In the fourth year, he became the captain of the team, but then he was nothing special. For that time, Drexler would say, “I’ve never been among the ten best basketball players in Texas.”
He visited the New Mexico State and Texas Tech universities but eventually decided to stay close to home and chose the Houston University which was led by the legendary Guy Lewis. That was a good decision. He became All-American and a member of the famous basketball fraternity called ‘Phi Slamma Jamma.’ Houston Cougars, along with Drexler, had a great Akeem Olajuwon, Larry Micheaux, and Michael Young, and all of them were great players. But unfortunately, that talented generation failed to win the NCAA title, they played twice in a row in Final Four, in 1982. they lost in the semifinals against eventual winners, North Carolina, led by James Worthy and rookie Michael Jordan. Houston played NCAA finals in 1983, but sensationally lost the finals versus North Carolina State.
Already at the University Drexler was a great all-around player, and this will be confirmed later in the NBA league. He became the first player in Houston University history to collect over 1000 points, 900 rebounds, and 300 assists. He spent three years at the university, after which he decided to go to the draft. In those three years, he had an average of 14.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists.
At the 1983 draft, he was only selected as the 14th pick of the first round, but Clyde was not thrilled.
“I was disappointed, I thought Houston would take me with the third pick. That was also why I left the university one year earlier. And then Rockets took with the third pick Rodney McCray.”
The Houston Rockets had the first pick in the 1983 draft, and they picked a great center from the University of Virginia, Ralph Sampson, who unfortunately had a lot of injuries in his career. The second pick was reserved for Indiana Pacers who took the white center, Steve Stipanovich. The third was again by Rockets (exchange with Philadelphia 76ers) who took Rodney McCray.
The Rookie season in Portland was frustrating for Drexler, who was not used to spending time on the bench. In the rookie season, Drexler averaged 7.7 points in the 17-minute playing time. He changed Jim Paxson on the spot of the SG and Calvin Natta on the low wing, and Paxson and Natt were the best archers of Portland this season. The Blazers made the 48-34 season, but Clyde was not happy, he thought he deserved more time, wanted to change it to another club.
“I probably have asked twenty times to trade me in my first season,” Drexler said. “I learned a lot from Jim Paxson, but I wanted to play in a team where I would play more.”
Despite not so successful rookie season, Blazers’ leaders and coach Jack Ramsay thought Drexler had the potential to be a star of the NBA league. He just needed patience because Jim Paxson played Drexler’s position. Blazers’ top plan was to have Drexler as the starter in the future.
Already in the second season, Drexler showed he will be a great player, although he mostly came from the bench (in 42 out of 80 games), he averaged 17.2 points per game for 32 minutes. In the third season, Drexler was almost standard in the starting lineup and was chosen to play in his first All-Star Game, the first of a total of ten selections. But he was only once selected in the best NBA team, in the 1991/92 season. His best season. Drexler increased his average in each of the first six seasons. In the season 1988/89. he had the highest average of his basketball career (27.2 points).
Drexler and Jim Paxson on the position of the SG were certainly one of the reasons why Portland did not choose Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft, but the took 216 cm tall center, Sam Bowie. Who knows how would Drexler and Jordan develop, if Portland drafted Jordan and kept Drexler, especially because both of them played the same position and had similar skills. But one has to say that nobody, but nobody could ever know that Michael Jordan will develop into such a fantastic player and become the best basketball player in history.
Blazers coach Ramsay said about not drafting Jordan: “Clyde is the reason why we did not take Michael. Besides, we needed the center. There was no need to draft another SG.”
Drexler played with Portland in the finals of the West in three consecutive years. He became the leader of the team, and he even scored fewer points than he really could, all to help the team. Without such a Drexler approach, Portland would hardly play three conference finals and play in the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992.
“You always have to focus on how to fit your own skills into the team concept and do what you can to help the team to win,” Drexler said. “At the beginning of my career I was supposed to hit the baskets, but for the past two years there have been others who can stand beside me, so I can do things other than jumping. I think I’ve played good defense for years, but I have never been elected to the all-defensive team. My reputation as a dunker and a great attacker has certainly had a lot to do with it. Those who vote for the best defensive team think that you are just dunker and you can not play the defense.”
Drexler brought Portland twice to the NBA Finals, but unfortunately, they failed to win the title and thus achieved the brilliant success that the Walton generation achieved in 1977 when they won the title for the first time, only NBA title of Portland Trail Blazers.
For the first time, Drexler and the company played the NBA Finals in 1990, when Isiah Thomas led the Detroit Pistons, who were better in the finals in five games (4-1). The second time they played in the finals in 1992, but they lost to Chicago Bulls in six games (4-2). In 1992, only one NBA franchise had a better win ratio than Portland in the regular season – Chicago Bulls, and Jordan was the regular season MVP and also of the finals. Just before this finals, it was said that Drexler was the second-best player in the league that season. Jordan scored 35.8 points in the finals, while Drexler had an average of 24.8 points. Bulls were still overwhelming for Blazers. But Drexler was definitely the second-best player of the season that season, averaging 25.0 points per game, with 6.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game.
In the summer of 1992, Drexler played at the Olympics in Barcelona as a member of the only true Dream Team, who walked through the tournament and convincingly won gold.
On February 14, 1995, on Valentine’s Day, Drexler moved to Houston Rockets, where he finally won his only NBA title with his old friend, Hakeem Olajuwon.
Drexler spent 15 seasons in the NBA league, he scored more than 22,000 points in the NBA league, averaging 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.6 assists. But perhaps the most impressive statistic aspect of Drexler’s career is that he has collected more than 20 000 points, 6000 rebounds, 6000 assists, and 2000 steals – and he is the only NBA player to succeed in that. It only shows how versatile a player he was.
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