Terry Porter's Jersey Retirement: Miscellaneous Memories

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Terry Porter's Jersey Retirement: Miscellaneous Memories

His career numbers never blew anyone away.

By the time he finished, Terry Porter's career average was only 12.2 points and a measly 5.6 assists per game.

Those are not even All-Star numbers—much less Hall of Fame numbers when taken at face value.

However, there was a six-year run in Portland when Porter was perhaps the second-most important Trail Blazer.

His second season, 1986-87, was a huge year. It wasn't just that he contributed 13 points and almost nine assists every contest—it was his presence.

The most points he ever averaged for a season was 18.2 and the most assists were 10.1. In an era dominated at the point guard position by Magic Johnson, Kevin Johnson, and John Stockton, those numbers often would not have gotten him into the All-Star game, though he was there twice in 1991, and again in 1993.

Without Porter, the Blazers would not have made the NBA Finals against either the Pistons or Bulls. He meant so much more to the team than mere statistics.

Porter seemed to always make the big play. Even on a team where Clyde Drexler was the star, Porter was often the player the Blazers looked to in crunch time. He provided us with so many great, great memories.

For example, there was the game, I believe against the Spurs, where everyone in the building knew Porter would shoot the trey, trying for the tie—but he instead cut to the basket, scored, and was fouled, tying a game as the Blazers went on to win.

There were so many plays like that, where he simply did the unexpected and it always worked out. He was not as flashy as Kevin Johnson, didn't have the Karl Malone for the pick-and-roll like John Stockton, and so forth. Yet he still meant every bit as much to the Blazers as those talented players did for their teams.

Portland fans will never forget the epic Suns-Blazers duel where it seemed like every game saw the Suns' Tom Chambers, Dan Majerle, and Kevin Johnson go off for 20 or 30 points apiece, only to see the Blazers match with Porter, Drexler, and maybe Jerome Kersey one night, Cliff Robinson another.

That series was epic. If the entertainment value from that series could be bottled and sold, Budweiser would go out of business. They were teams that could score, loved to run, and matched up well together. 

Likewise, the series with the Utah Jazz proved to be the same. So as Buck Williams and Karl Malone banged each other hard enough to leave the fans with bruises, Porter and Stockton put on clinics on how to play point guard.

Again and again, Porter found Kevin Duckworth on the pick-and-pop for that one-handed jumper Duckworth loved to shoot, or found Drexler driving to the bucket or, barring that, simply scored from wherever he felt like shooting.

Stockton was no slouch, either. With Williams and Malone all but canceling each other out, it was up to Stockton and Jeff Hornacek to provide scoring punch. Back and forth went the series until Portland pulled out an improbable Game six win in Utah, mostly behind the stellar play of Porter.

Who can forget his six-for-eigh three-point shooting in the first game? It was not as if Stockton did not know how to play defense—but it did set the tone.

In short, while his overall numbers may not be game-breaking, his impact was.

And of course his Blazer numbers are better: He is their all-time leader in assists and steals, and second in points and steals.

But it was also what he meant to the community as a whole that mattered. People outside the Portland area might not fully understand what that meant to Portland, but those who suffered through the Jailblazer era do.

Porter was not only a great player, he was a great guy. In 1992-93, he won the NBA J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award due to his efforts in the community. For Blazer fans, that meant almost as much as, if not more, than his All-Star game honors.

Blazer fans don't just want to win, they want to win "the right way" which means with players who are not rolling around the streets getting high, running dog-fighting rings, and so forth. Porter was a guy who definitely played the game the right way, both on and off the court.

Porter's numbers suffered a little bit because of the talent that surrounded him. It wasn't just Drexler averaging in the high 20s. Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams, Cliff Robinson, and Kevin Duckworth were all capable of averaging close to 20 points per game. Porter found ways to make sure everyone got the ball, even at the cost of his own numbers.

Playing alongside a passer like Clyde Drexler also hurt his assist numbers. During Porter's prime, Drexler averaged as many as eight assists per game but never fewer than 5.8. When playing alongside that sort of passing talent, it makes it hard for a point guard to ring up huge numbers.

Clearly, when Porter has his jersey retired at the game tonight, it has a lot to do with his impact on the team far more than it does pure numbers.

Porter was a great player and a very good man. It is an honor to have been able to see him play basketball. Thanks for the memories, Terry Porter, and congratulations on seeing the No. 30 raised to the rafters. You are truly a deserving member.

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