NBA 75th Anniversary Season

Archive 75: Clyde Drexler

Archive 75 Clyde Drexler

How can you make the hard basketball move look easy? Well for starters, be blessed with amazing athleticism and grace, play collegiately for a team named after a fictitious fraternity, get drafted into the NBA and by the Trail Blazers, grab a ball and make Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics freeze in their footsteps.

Be Clyde Drexler, in other words, a man of many moves.

 

Has there been a player with a more appropriate nickname than “Clyde The Glide?” Good luck finding one. He was “The Glide” because it aptly described his takeoff, levitation and hang time that preceded the thunder which followed next. All of those one-handed tomahawks and facials would not be possible without the gentle in-air floatation that allowed him to create the dunking highlights and essentially, his legend.

Clyde Drexler was one of the top-shelf stars of the late 1980s and early ’90s. His teams in Portland were constant contenders. He made the Dream Team in 1992. He took regular trips to the All-Star Game. His style of play was thrilling to behold. He was, quite simply, the centerpiece the Blazers needed to be an elite team that decade. His only flaw was the NBA Finals. He couldn’t push the Blazers past the last challenge, but as Drexler will explain, winning and losing was done by the team. And he was all about the team.

As an entertainer, Drexler had few peers in the NBA. He was especially frisky in the open floor, when the seas parted and there was a clear path to the basket and Drexler could do Drexler Things. That’s when anticipation ran high inside the arena and precisely the moment when everyone asked: What’s about to happen next? Sometimes, even the performer didn’t even know. A pass, a shot, a twisting move, they all just … happened, sometimes spontaneously. And always spectacularly.

At age 32, his time in the NBA dwindling, his chances of winning a title in Portland waning, Drexler was sent back home to Houston via a midseason trade in 1995 and into the arms of the defending-champion Rockets. He received a hearty welcome in the city where he starred in high school and college. He became reunited with Hakeem Olajuwon, his college teammate. It all seemed so perfect and natural, at least initially, before the ball went up. Once it did, Drexler had to make the dream a reality. There were no more excuses. There was only opportunity and success, or failure.

Drexler was older yet wiser, battered yet hungry, and totally determined to make this next chance his best chance. As the newcomer, he had to fit in, and he did. Still, as a star player, he had to rescue the Rockets on occasion, and he did. When the regular season was over and the playoffs beckoned, the urgency and weight on Drexler was never higher or heavier, but in the end, he and the Rockets found themselves on top of the NBA championship mountain, the destination he sought all along.

Clyde Drexler won a championship with Houston

Clyde Drexler, born and raised and ultimately crowned in Houston, is one of the few basketball stars to go full circle. He finished what he started, and where he started it. And in between, through a stop in Portland, it was mostly glorious. It was a road map with more friendly twists than wicked turns, and he never crashed along the journey. If anything, Clyde Drexler soared above it all. You might say he stayed on a constant glide.

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