Maurice Lucas (AP photo)
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Maurice Lucas, the fierce power forward known as "The Enforcer" who helped lead the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title, has died after a long fight with bladder cancer. He was 58.
Lucas died Sunday at his home in Portland, the team said.
Lucas, whose No. 20 was retired by the Blazers in 1988, joined Portland in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft and led the 1976-77 championship team in scoring with a 20.2 average. He also averaged 11.2 rebounds that season.
At public appearances, fans often greeted Lucas with cries of "Luuuuuuke!" His competitive demeanor on the court was in contrast to his gentle nature off it.
He served as an assistant coach with the Blazers for six seasons, but last year he left the team to undergo surgery before suffering a setback last November. He did not return to coaching this season.
The former Marquette player averaged 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds in 12 NBA seasons with Portlan d, New Jersey, New York, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers and Seattle. In two seasons in the ABA with St. Louis and Kentucky, he averaged 15.2 points and 10.8 rebounds.
He was a five-time All-Star.
Prior to last season an interview with Lucas was posted on the Trail Blazers' official website, covering topics including his health, his work with center Greg Oden and the team's 40th anniversary.
"The one thing that I'm finding is an issue for me is learning patience, being patient with myself. I'm trying to understand what this process is all about. It takes a little longer amount of time than I'd like it to take in order to recover," Lucas said. "But it is what it is and I'm not in charge of it. I've just got to play my role, be patient, feed myself well, take the right meds and see if I can get back on track."
Lucas led Marquette to the 1974 NCAA title game against North Carolina State and was selected to the All-Final Four team along with future Portlan d teammate Bill Walton. The 6-foot-9 former Pittsburgh high school star averaged 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds as a junior that season.
Marquette also retired his No. 20 and inducted him into its Hall of Fame, and Walton named his son Luke, a player for the Lakers, after him.
"I hadn't seen him as much lately, but he and my dad still talked all the time," Luke Walton said. "From what I heard, he had been in some pain for a while. It's tough. He's a great guy."
The Trail Blazers were in the midst of a four-game trip, with a game against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.
Lucas is survived by wife Pamela, sons David and Maurice II and daughter Kristin.
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