by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport
People in Portland still talk about “the dunk.” It happened in Game 2 of the ’92 NBA Finals. After the defending Champs beat the Trail Blazers 122-89 in Game 1, Chicago Bulls’ fans felt the mano-a-mano between Michael Jordan and Clyde Drexler was a one-sided affair in favor of His Airness.
That awoke the sleeping giant. Clyde went into Over-Glide mode, punching the ball through the rim over Bill Cartwright with the same force as Iron Mike Tyson’s right cross. That posterizing jam was the turning point, allowing the Blazers to even the series at 1-1. The Bulls went on to win the chip in six games, but Portland never forgot about The Glide’s dunk, which is why, to this day, he remains one of the most popular players to ever lace ’em up in the City of Roses.
Mitchell & Ness recently paid homage to the high-flying Hall of Famer by releasing a throwback No. 22 jersey in the rare red, black and white colorway that Drexler wore during his rookie season in ’83-84. SLAM caught up with the former member of the ’92 US Olympic Dream Team to talk about jerseys, short shorts and fans.
SLAM: You dropped all the way to No. 14 in the ’83 Draft. Did that leave a chip on your shoulder?
Clyde Drexler: No. I was just happy and thankful to be drafted. It didn’t matter to me as long as I had the opportunity to pursue my dreams. All I wanted was to play in the NBA. Once you get there, it’s all up to you anyway, no matter how you get there.
SLAM: Were you happy to go to Portland?
CD: I think Portland has the strongest fan base in the NBA. When I went to Portland, it was like a college environment. It was probably the best thing for me. The organization was supportive and I had a great group of veterans around me. And Jack Ramsey was a great head coach.
SLAM: Mitchell & Ness recently released the throwback Blazers jersey you wore during your rookie season. What’s that mean to you?
CD: First of all, I think it’s a tremendous honor. Mitchell & Ness does a great job when they come out with the authentic jerseys and I’m honored to be a part of their latest promotion. And it’s quite an honor to my days as a Trail Blazer, which I loved.
SLAM: How long was it before Portland fans started wearing your jersey?
CD: It took a while because I held out of camp my rookie year and missed a lot of the plays and formation of the team Jack Ramsey put together. I was averaging like 10 minutes a game until the All-Star break. So I only got 10 minutes. No more, no less. Coach Ramsey said until you learn to play young man, you will not be effective in my system.
SLAM: What did you think about those short shorts you had to wear when you played?
CD: I loved the short shorts. We could actually run and do stuff in them. We didn’t have to pull them down and pull them back up all the time. I never had a problem with my shorts.
SLAM: What was your style back then?
CD: My style would be simple elegance. I wasn’t flashy.
SLAM: Do you feel like the NBA still needs a dress code?
CD: Most guys in the League are professionals and a lot of them love fashion. I don’t think we have a problem in basketball because guys make a lot of money and love to look good.
SLAM: Do you think you got your just due as a player?
CD: I’m not one to complain. Everywhere I go, fans always say, “When you played, I didn’t see nobody better.” So if that’s the consensus from the fans, it’s a great honor because the League was full of great players and to hear that there was nobody better, that’s a tremendous compliment.
SLAM: How do you grade your career as a whole?
CD: I wanted to be as good as I could be and I worked as hard as anybody whoever played this game, so if you look at my career from the very beginning, you’ll see the quest for excellence.