I remember listening to the Portland Trail Blazers on the radio back in high school (93-97) because we didn’t have cable and even our regular antenna channels hardly came in out in the countryside of Eastern Oregon. Listening to the games on the FM radio was exciting once you just accepted that you couldn’t watch it with your eyes.
While listening to the play-by-play action, certain players’ names always came up when the chips were down and the game was seemingly lost. Jerome Kersey and Tracy Murray. Those were my favorite players in the early mid-nineties because they never gave up and worked the hardest no matter if the Blazers were winning or not.
Jerome played for the Trail Blazers from 1984 until 1995, then played for the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle Supersonics, San Antonio Spurs, and the Milwaukee Bucks. 2001 was his last season; born in 1962, he was 39 years old when he retired.
Tragically, he would only live to be 52 years old, dying suddenly of a blood clot that caused a pulmonary embolism in early 2015 – he had knee surgery just days before his death.
His tragic death was even made worse considering he was just married a year and a half earlier in 2013. Making the Portland area his home, he was both married and died there, which was a long way away from where he was born in Virginia.
Jerome Kersey was 6’7” and 215 pounds and played as a small forward. He went to a Division II college and was picked in the second round of the 1984 draft. He worked his way up from being a bench player to starting from around 1987 to 1992; this was when the Portland Trail Blazers went to the finals two times with his fellow starters Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Buck Williams, and Kevin Duckworth.
When I was listening to the games on the radio, Kersey was coming off the bench once again, as Cliff Robinson took his spot in the mid-90s. What I remember the most is the energy he would create when he was let into the game; rebounds, blocks, steals, baskets – he was everywhere as the radio announcer kept calling his name “Kersey from the corner, swish!” "Kersey gets the rebound and starts the fast break, passing to Porter and he lays it in!”
Murray played for the Blazers for two and a half seasons during this time in the early mid-90s, so was generally coming off the bench with Kersey to cause havoc for the opposing team. Whether winning or losing, they would play as hard as they could and sometimes turn the game around. Their energy was so different from the smooth laid-back Robinson, really, Kersey should have never lost his starting position.
Over his long career, Kersey averaged 10.3 points, 1.2 steals, 1.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds per game, playing 24.4 minutes with a .465 field goal percentage. He played in 1,153 games, starting in 571 of them, mostly from 1987-1993, those great years the Blazers had. Unfortunately, those were also the years the Chicago Bulls were nearly unstoppable.
Jerome Kersey adopted Oregon as his home and had his best years as a Portland Trail Blazer, where he was a fan favorite for his hard work and tenacity whether winning or losing. Rest in peace Jerome and thank you for all the good memories.