Jerome Kersey, a fan favorite during his decade-plus career with the Portland Trail Blazersand a veteran of 17 NBA seasons, died Wednesday. He was 52.
The Trail Blazers confirmed that Kersey had died, but didn’t provide details. According to The Oregonian, Kersey, a team ambassador, spoke to high school students in Portland on Tuesday with fellow former Blazers Terry Porter and Brian Grant in celebration of Black History Month.
Kersey, a 6-foot-7 small forward, was a starter on Portland’s 1990 and 1992 NBA Finals teams. He was a second-round draft pick in 1984 and spent his first 11 seasons in Portland, playing alongside the likes of Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, Kiki Vandeweghe and Porter. Kersey played for five other NBA teams, winning a championship with San Antonio in 1999. He retired from the NBA in 2001.
“It is so sad,” Drexler 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). All told, 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.
Prior to his NBA career, Kersey was a two-time National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II All-American at Longwood College, where he was a four-year starter.
Kersey also coached in the NBA as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks under Porter in 2004-05. Early in his retirement he served as an assistant with the Blazers’ summer league team.
The Blazers franchise lost beloved Hall of Fame coach Dr. Jack Ramsay in 2014 and popular center Kevin Duckworth in 2008. Duckworth was 44 at the time of his death.