Sad news for NBA fans everywhere, as former Portland Trailblazer center Kevin Duckworth passed away.
Duckworth had a decent NBA career, and made a couple of All-Star teams. But as a Pistons fan, the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news about Duckworth's death was Bill Laimbeer's utter and complete mind fuck of a much younger Duckworth in the 1990 NBA Finals.
Laimbeer's flopping, antagonistic, annoying and extremely effective playing style drove Duckworth totally to distraction. Portland's All-Star center spent the entire 5 games more worried about what stunt Detroit's leading Bad Boy was going to pull next, than concentrate on his own game. It was as if the Pistons were playing the Blazers 5-4, as Duckworth was essentially neutered by Laimbeer's trickery throughout the series.
The Blazers' center was a unique talent, but after Laimbeer was finished with him, he didn't know which way was up, down or around on the basketball court. Laimbeer massivly screwing with Duckworth's head was a big reason Detroit won their second consecutive NBA championship.
Maybe it was Duckworth's weight issues, maybe it was his being considered "soft" for a big man, maybe it was Laimbeer's dominating mind games, but Duckworth ever seemed to be the same player after those 5 memorable games in the 1990 NBA Finals. I may be giving Laimbeer too much credit, but Duckworth's stats, and career, trended down every season thereafter. He bounced around the association, playing with several teams, and was done as a pro at the relatively young age of 32.
From all accounts, Kevin Duckworth was a very nice guy who gave back to the game he loved, as shown by his being on the way to give a basketball clinic when he passed. No matter the backstory, it's always a sad day whenever a good man passes away well before his time.