NBA Legends: Clyde Drexler

    The NBA has had its fair share of legendary players over the years, all putting their unique stamp on the championship and turning it into what we know and love today.

    Though his name doesn’t quite float around like Dwayne Wade or Kobe Bryant, for instance, Clyde Drexler is an NBA legend in his own right. And “Clyde the Glide” deserves all of the recognition and more for his contributions to the basketball world.

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    Early Career

    Clyde Drexler was born on June 22, 1962, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He attended Ross Sterling High School in Houston and was a classmate of renowned tennis player Zina Garrison.

    He made the varsity baseball team during his sophomore year but failed to make the cut for the basketball team until his senior year. Following an impressive 27-rebound, 34-point performance against Sharpstown High School in a 1979 Christmas tournament, he began receiving widespread attention from college coaches.

    After graduating in 1980, he was recruited by Texas Tech University, New Mexico State University, and the University of Houston. He opted to study in Houston.

    College Career

    He was a very smooth, six-foot-seven talented shooting guard who played with flair every time he stepped foot onto the hardwood.

    Merging elegance with athleticism and speed, Dexler embodied professionalism on and off the floor. He could play and score on defense and was truly a natural leader. As his nickname suggests, “Clyde the Glide” truly knew how to finish at the rim.

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    Drexler, Michael Young, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Larry Micheaux made up the Phi Slama Jama. This was a basketball fraternity that gained widespread national attention for their highly acrobatic above-the-rim play. 

    As a junior, Drexler moved to the NBA draft. He left Houston with impressive career averages of 14.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in just three seasons!

    He was named the Southwestern Conference Player of the Year and was also first-team All-American in his final college season. Drexler is also the only player in Houston history with combined totals of 1,000 career points, 300 assists, and 900 rebounds.

    Portland Trail Blazers

    As a result, Drexler was a first-round draft pick and the 14th overall pick by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1983 NBA draft. 

    After a pretty slow rookie year, Dexler managed ten straight seasons for the Trail Blazers and solidified his status as one of the NBA’s top scorers. 

    In his second year, he averaged 17.2 points per game and later went on to become an All-Star during his third season with an average per game point record of 18.5. In 1989, Drexler scored a career-high of 50 points in a home win against Sacramento (147-142). 

    The star player also scored his ten thousandth point in December of 1989, making him the all-time leading scorer in Blazer’s history at the time.

    As a ten-time All-Star throughout his fifteen-year-long career in the NBA, Drexler pioneered “Blazermania” which saw the Blazers through to the Finals twice in the early 1990s. However, the Blazers lost to the Pistons in 1990 and then to the Chicago Bulls in 1992.

    Despite a lack of team success, Drexler saw lots of personal success this year. He gained glory by representing the Blazers and the U.S. in the 1992 Olympics, managing to win a gold medal alongside “the Dream Team” in Barcelona.

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    Houston Rockets

    On Valentine’s Day 1995, with the Portland Trail Blazers out of the running for the championship, the Blazers honored Drexler’s request of being traded to a true contender. 

    They sent the shooting guard icon home to the Houston Rockets alongside Tracy Murray, in exchange for power forward Otis Thorpe, forward Marcelo Nicola, and a first-round pick from the 1995 draft. This occurred just before the trade deadline. 

    It was on April 9, 1995, that Drexler truly became accepted by the team after hitting a famous buzzer-beater against the Denver Nuggets. 

    He went on to win the NBA championship with the Rockets this year, sweeping the Orlando Magic. Though it was his first championship with the Rockets, it was the franchise’s second consecutive championship after winning in 1994.

    Drexler retired after a first-round exit in 1998 and ended his career with a total of 22,195 points, 6,125 assists, and 2,207 steals. 

    Notable Achievements 

    Clyde Drexler was named one of the fifty Greatest Players of All Time in 1996. In addition, he was an NBA All-Star ten times and was also named to both the 50th and 75th-anniversary NBA teams. 

    In 2001, Drexler was enshrined in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame twice: once as an individual (2004) and once as part of the Dream Team (2010).

    Summary 

    A lot of the Blazers’ later success can be attributed to the dedication and talents of Drexler himself. Throughout his entire NBA career, he never once faltered and continued to deliver record-breaking stats quickly and efficiently.

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