Former Blazer Kevin Duckworth dies just before Astoria visit

Former Portland Trail Blazers' center Kevin Duckworth works with children on their free throw shooting Wednesday during the Portland Trail Blazers "Make it Better Summer Tour" in Pendleton. Former Trail Blazers' forward Jerome Kersey works with children in the background.<br>E.J. Harris - The East Oregonian

Updated 11:33 a.m.

Kevin Duckworth, a former star for the Portland Trail Blazers, has died just two days before he was set to visit Astoria.

Duckworth, affectionately known to Trail Blazers fans simply as "Duck," was 44. He died Monday in Gleneden Beach while visiting Lincoln City as part of the Blazers' "Make It Better" tour.

It was not immediately known if Wednesday's Astoria event will be canceled. Details will be announced.

The "Make It Better" tour was visiting 19 communities in Oregon and Washington.

Duckworth and team founder Harry Glickman had planned to host a free kids' basketball clinic and visit with fans and broadcast affiliates as part of the Trail Blazers' "Make It Better" Tour.

The group planned to visit KKEE 1230 AM, the Trail Blazers radio affiliate then host a free basketball clinic for kids ages 7 to 13 at Tapiola Park.

"Today is an extremely sad day for the Trail Blazers family," said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. "Kevin will be remembered by fans as one of the most popular and recognizable players to ever wear the Blazers uniform, but to people who knew him, he'll be remembered as one of the warmest and biggest-hearted."

Duckworth remained in the Portland area after his playing career ended, where he was an avid fisherman & outdoorsman, and a skilled carpenter. He was on the Oregon Coast representing the Trail Blazers as a Heritage Ambassador on the team's 19-city Statewide Summer Tour.

The cause of his death is unknown, and will be determined by a Lincoln County Medical Examiner.

Duckworth was a 300-pounder who battled weight problems throughout his career. He grew up in the Chicago area and was drafted out of Eastern Illinois University. Duckworth was only 14 games into his NBA career when he was acquired by the Trail Blazers from San Antonio in exchange for Walter Berry.

One season later, the 7-foot center was thrust into the spotlight because of injuries to Steve Johnson and Sam Bowie. Duckworth responded by averaging 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, establishing himself as a pivot presence instrumental in Portland's emergence as one of the NBA's dominant teams.

Duckworth remains the 10th leading scorer (7,188) and rebounder (3,327) in Trail Blazers history, compiling averages of 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in 527 games with Portland. During his tenure, Trail Blazers teams compiled a record of 356-193 (.648). In 684 career NBA games, Duckworth scored 8,085 points (11.8 ppg), grabbed 3,945 rebounds (5.8 rpg) and shot 46.8 percent from the field.

Information on memorial services will be announced. Duckworth is survived by his mother and sister.

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