How Maurice Lucas, the Enforcer of the Blazers, Lost His Battle with Bladder Cancer

Maurice Lucas was one of the most dominant and feared power forwards in the history of basketball. He played in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA), winning a championship with the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977. He was a four-time NBA All-Star and a member of the ABA All-Time Team. He was nicknamed “the Enforcer” because of his physical and intimidating style of play, which helped him protect his teammates and intimidate his opponents. He was also a skilled scorer, rebounder, passer, and defender, who could play both inside and outside.

Early Life and College Career

Maurice Lucas was born on February 18, 1952, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended Schenley High School, where he led his team to a state championship in 1971. He was named Mr. Basketball USA that year, as the best high school player in the country. He then went to Marquette University, where he played for legendary coach Al McGuire. He helped the Warriors reach the NCAA championship game in 1974, where they lost to North Carolina State. He averaged 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in his two seasons at Marquette, and had his number 20 retired by the school.

ABA and NBA Career

Lucas was drafted by both the Carolina Cougars of the ABA and the Chicago Bulls of the NBA in 1974. He chose to play in the ABA, joining the Spirits of St. Louis. He averaged 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in his rookie season, and made the ABA All-Star team. He then played for the Kentucky Colonels in 1975-76, where he averaged 17.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, and won another ABA All-Star selection.

In 1976, after the ABA-NBA merger, Lucas was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the dispersal draft. He formed a formidable frontcourt duo with Bill Walton, who was recovering from a series of injuries. Lucas had his best season in 1976-77, when he averaged 20.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, and made his first NBA All-Star team. He also led the Blazers to their first and only NBA championship that year, beating the Philadelphia 76ers in six games in the finals. Lucas was instrumental in turning around the series after the Blazers lost the first two games. In Game 2, he got into a fight with Darryl Dawkins, which sparked his team’s comeback. In Game 6, he scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to seal the title.

Lucas continued to play at a high level for the next three seasons with the Blazers, making three more NBA All-Star teams and two All-Defensive teams. He also averaged over 20 points per game in each of those seasons. However, Walton’s injuries prevented the Blazers from repeating their success, and Lucas was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 1980.

Lucas played for five more teams in his NBA career: the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle SuperSonics, and Portland Trail Blazers again. He had his last All-Star season with the Suns in 1982-83, when he averaged 16.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. He retired after the 1987-88 season, having played a total of 14 seasons in the ABA and NBA.

Coaching Career and Death

After retiring as a player, Lucas became an assistant coach for the Blazers under Mike Schuler and Rick Adelman in 1988-89. He then left coaching for several years, before returning to the Blazers as an assistant coach under Nate McMillan in 2005.

In 2007, Lucas was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which he battled for three years. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and seemed to be on his way to recovery in 2008. However, he relapsed and eventually succumbed to the disease on October 31, 2010. He was 58 years old when he passed away.

Lucas is survived by his wife Pamela and his four children: David (who also played basketball at Oregon State University), Maurice Jr., Kristin (who played volleyball at Portland State University), and Brian (who played basketball at Marquette University).


Maurice Lucas is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in Blazers history, and one of the best power forwards of all time. He is remembered for his toughness, leadership, versatility, and passion for the game.

The Blazers retired his number 20 jersey in 1988, making him the second player in franchise history to receive that honor (after Walton). His number is also retired by Marquette University, and he is a member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2012, the Blazers unveiled a statue of Lucas outside the Moda Center, the team’s home arena. The statue depicts Lucas holding the championship trophy, with his arm around Walton. The statue is a tribute to their friendship and partnership, which led the Blazers to their glory days.

The Blazers also created the Maurice Lucas Award, which is given annually to the player who best represents the spirit and legacy of Lucas. The award is based on leadership, character, and community involvement. The first recipient of the award was LaMarcus Aldridge in 2011.

Maurice Lucas was more than just a basketball player. He was a mentor, a role model, a father, and a friend. He touched many lives with his generosity, kindness, and courage. He will always be remembered as the Enforcer of the Blazers, and a legend of the game.

Doms Desk

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