“He’s the best SG in the league”. “Can’t nobody touch him”. “Look at the way he soars through the air with his tongue out, and look at the power he has when he slams the ball”. This is what my brother would constantly yell at me. But wait, was Michael Jordan the only player doing spectacular moves in that era? I can think of a few others, but this is about Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trail Blazers.
In today’s NBA, teams hit the NBA Draft taking the best available talent. When in earlier seasons they took what was needed. The most debated discussion in NBA history is a what if. What if the Blazers didn’t need Sam Bowie in 1984? It’s not that they didn’t want Jordan but why pick him when they already had Mr. Phi Slama Jama himself?
Instead of being so focused on the Portland Trail Blazers picking Bowie, let’s look at the real reason Mike was not a Blazer; HE WAS NOT NEEDED. No one knew that he would become who he did but let’s not throw away who Drexler was either. For the so-called basketball fans not in the know, let me offer a little insight on who Clyde Drexler was and why Jordan was able to be Jordan.
This is not Jordan hate, this is the truth that I’m about to speak.
Jordan came into the league as a high-flyer, but so did Drexler. Jordan was known as “Air”, Drexler as “Glide.” The similarities don’t end there. Both played the same position. Both were able to take their defender off the dribble, play solid defense, and could score at will. But the difference was, one wanted the individual success more while the other looked for team success.
I know that may seem strange with Jordan and the Bulls winning six NBA titles but look at their careers. Jordan shot the ball an average of 22.9 times per game while Drexler shot the ball an average of 16.3 times per game. If Drexler wanted to shoot more the opportunities were there but he relied on his team to help. You give Drexler nearly seven extra shots and his point averages would be up there with Jordan’s.
Clyde Drexler Was Just As Valuable To The Portland Trail Blazers as Jordan Was to The Bulls
When Drexler and Jordan met up in the 1991-92 Finals it was more of the same and this was the only time I looked for Drexler to take over. Mike shot 158 times during the six-game series while Drexler shot only 118 times. No way am I saying that Jordan wanted it more but Drexler refused to take the focus off of the team and that cost the Blazers the championship. But that’s who Drexler was. He denied the spotlight. Clyde wanted to lace them up, play the game and go home.
Those Blazers teams Drexler was a part of never missed a playoff. Drexler made 10 All-Star games, averaged a stat line of 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game throughout his career. He was similar to Jordan but he decided to take less shots. When people think of the best SG’s in NBA history his name is never mentioned with Jordan, Kobe or Wade.
That may sit well him just fine, but it doesn’t sit well with me. History tells us that you can’t be labeled as one of the greatest if your per game average falls below 23 points. But look at Drexler. Look at what he did for the game and for the City of Portland. Drexler is a legend and in my eyes, he’s one of the best to play the game, not just among shooting guards.
When I describe Clyde Drexler, I often reference him to Barry Sanders. Sanders could have left the game as the greatest running back in NFL history but he didn’t want it as the others did. That doesn’t make him less of a man or player, he just wanted that team success more. I can’t take away what Jordan, Kobe or Wade accomplished in their careers. But what I can do is show respect to a man who chose teamwork over individual success.
The world knew who Jordan was only because Drexler let it be that way.