Now they’ll have that chance.
On Saturday morning at Memorial Coliseum in Portland, family, fans and the Trail Blazers organization alike will turn out in droves to pay their final respects. For some though, Duckworth – known simply as Duck to those who followed his career with Portland in the early 90’s – was more than just another basketball player.
He was a teammate; a brother in the camaraderie sense of the word; a friend beyond the meaning of the word. Yet for Alaa Abdelnaby, Duckworth will forever be remembered as “BIG SEXY”.
“Kevin was the first person who called me when I arrived in Portland – we had the same agent,” said Abdelnaby who played with the Blazers from 1990-92.
Nowadays, the 6-10 former post player who spent five seasons in the league, Alaa works as an analyst for NBATV and NBA Radio on SIRIUS. The loss of Duckworth, 44, from congestive heart failure was certainly a shock admitted Abdelnaby who learned of his dear friend and one-time teammates’ death after touching down from a trip to China.
Today and in the coming days though, Alaa’s heart and mind will be with Duckworth and his family. He will never forget how Duckworth personally touched his life with one afternoon lunch at a suburban Portland chain restaurant back in 1990.
“I ordered the blackened chicken Alfredo and Kevin had a Cobb salad. I never remember what I order, especially for a lunch, let alone one 18-years-ago. But Duck made it memorable by how incredibly warm and generous he was.
“I was nobody and here was the starting center taking me out and showing me my new city. This is what Kevin was like. I remember making him laugh and thinking this guy is not just my teammate but possibly a friend. For someone who was in awe of this guy, he sure made me feel like one of the guys and for someone who was the only rookie on that team I felt that I had met someone who could be there for me whenever I needed him.
“That was Kevin.”
While Duckworth played 11 years in the league, he’ll most be remembered for his time spent in Portland from 1986-93 as part of two Western Conference champion squads in 1990 and 1992. Duckworth also represented Portland as an All-Star in 1989 and 1991. At 7-0, he was the inside presence for the Blazers alongside head coach Rick Adelman’s Rip City core of Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams. Once his playing days concluded, Duckworth remained an extension of the Blazers family serving the organization as a community ambassador, particularly on the Oregon coast.
Yet as many will likely share stories and say fond farewells come Saturday morning at Duckworth’s memorial service, Abdelnaby can’t help but cherish the memory of the man people affectionately called Duck.
“People called him Duck and I liked it, but I felt since he was larger than life, he deserved an appropriate moniker. After being around the fellas on the team for awhile you find out things about each of them,” Abdelnaby continued.
“Duck loved clothes like I do and because of his years in the league, he had accumulated a heck of a wardrobe. It just hit me one day: “BIG SEXY”. And you know what? He loved it. It evolved after awhile to just “SEXY”. So, one day my rookie year he invites me to his house and takes me to the basement where he had his playroom and up on the wall was a custom-made neon sign with him shooting one of his patented jump-hooks; above him read in big letters “BIG SEXY”. His girlfriend got it made for him because he loved the nickname.
“I remember feeling like I was affecting his life no matter how small. I was accepted. Needless to say, he was and always be “BIG SEXY.”
Duckworth’s shocking passing conjures up different memories to different people. Amazingly enough, such recollections share one thing in common: they all breathe happiness. In other words, you can’t help but smile when thinking or hearing the name Kevin Duckworth. That’s why it is time to celebrate Kevin, regardless if you are a faithful Blazers fan, casually follow the league, are a former teammate or coach or even a simple sportswriter.
He will be greatly missed, yet the memories of Duckworth will never fade.
“God has sitting next to him one of the best human beings I’ve had to honor to know,” Abdelnaby said.
“Rest in peace “BIG SEXY.”