Jerome Kersey was 52 earlier today, and he'll be 52 forever now. Lots of guys in my damn poker game are older than that, but you don't get older than dead. He went in for knee surgery earlier in the week, didn't feel well, collapsed on the way to the car and what the hell, man. What the hell.
If you don't remember Kersey, you missed a hell of a player. He was kind of a poor man's Scottie Pippen, in that you could put him all over the place and watch numbers across the board accrue. He worked with every kind of lineup, spent his best years in Portland being a Swiss Army knife of 6'-7" rebounder / wing player / defensive hammer, with a bit more scoring and assists than you'd expect from a super-athletic run the court guy. Of the tens of thousands of guys who have made the league, he was one of the top 300 or so; a solid starter on two teams that made it to the Finals, and a guy that played most of his career with winners.
He was, of course, a blue collar fan favorite, beloved by the Blazer faithful, and not just because he kept his nose clean in a one-team town where that has been a problem. He didn't have three point range and wasn't great from the line, but the game was different then, and three point range was rare and suspect. And in a more just basketball world, he gets a ring over the Pistons or Bulls in those two trips to the Finals, because those Portland teams were just so much more fun to watch, in that there was ball movement, 5-man team play rather than star turns, and open court action that, of course, just melted away in meat grinder Finals.
Kersey finally got his ring as a Spurs benchie, a nice career achievement for wandering through the NBA hinterlands in the post-expansion era. No one can say he didn't get everything out of his talents, lasting 17 years in the Association, and making a little over $15 million. He was a hell of a success story for a second round pick, back in the day when you could find super-athletic guys from small colleges, and before nerd stats showed that his all-around contributions were a lot more valuable than empty calorie scoring guys.
And now he's dead, at 52.
What the hell?