Jerome Kersey, one of the NBA’s most well-liked players in the 1980s and 199os, and an 11-season fixture in Portland with the Trail Blazers, died Wednesday in Portland at 52. The Oregonian website said Kersey joined former Blazers Terry Porter and Brian Grant Wednesday as team ambassadors speaking to high school audiences celebrating Black History Month.
The Lake Oswego Fire Dept. responded to a call to his home around 5 p.m. He was transported to a hospital in Tualatin, where he died.
“Today we lost an incredible person and one of the most beloved players to ever wear a Trail Blazers uniform,” Blazers owner Paul Allen, who also owns the Seahawks, said in a team statement. “My thoughts and condolences are with the Kersey family. He will be missed by all of us. It’s a terrible loss.”
“Jerome was an incredible influence on our players as a model for life after basketball,” Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said. “He set the bar extremely high with his long-lasting influence in this community.”
The career of the 6-foot-7 Kersey, out of Division II Longwood (Va.) College, ran from 1984 to 2001 and included a half-season with the 1997-98 Sonics. In George Karl’s last season coaching in Seattle, Kersey played 37 games for a 61-win team and started all five playoff games in a 3-2 series win over Minnesota.
Kersey was a starter for Portland’s 1990 and 1992 teams that reached the NBA Finals. He won a championship ring in 1999 as a reserve for the San Antonio Spurs.
“It is so sad,” Clyder Drexler, former Blazer star, told Comcast Sports Northwest upon hearing the news. “It is a huge loss for the Portland community. He was the greatest guy, the nicest friend, teammate and brother. He was loved by everyone. We will all miss him. He just cared so much. This is unbelievable.”
At the time of his retirement, Kersey ranked second on the Blazers’ all-time list in games played (831) and rebounds (5,078), and third in blocked shots (621) and steals (1,059). He played in 1,153 NBA games for Portland, Golden State, the Lakers, Seattle, San Antonio and Milwaukee, averaging 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds.