Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kevin Duckworth autopsy scheduled for tomorrow

An autopsy will be conducted tomorrow morning on the body of Kevin Duckworth, the state medical examiner said today. The former NBA All-Star and Portland Trail Blazer standout died yesterday of undetermined causes in Lincoln City.

Dr. Karen Gunson said Dr. Larry Lewman will conduct the autopsy around 10 a.m. at the state medical examiner's office in Clackamas.

"We're still gathering details on his medical history,'' Gunson said.

Duckworth, 44, died Monday night, Lincoln County officials said earlier today.

A spokesman for the Depoe Bay Fire Department said the agency responded to a report about 10 p.m. of an unconscious man at Salishan Lodge. Paramedics worked on Duckworth for 30 minutes but he never regained consciousness. He appeared to have gone into cardiac arrest, fire officials said. He was pronounced dead at 10:23 p.m., said Lt. Dennis Knudson.

According to The News Guard, Duckworth visited Lincoln City to host a free basketball clinic for kids. He also was there to visit fans as part of the Trail Blazers "Make It Better" tour of the state.

The Blazers this morning released a statement calling Duckworth's death "an extremely sad day."

"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," Blazers President Larry Miller said.

Duckworth was a two-time All-Star who starred on Western Conference Championship teams in Portland in 1990 and 1992.

The 7-foot center was known as "Duck." He also played for San Antonio, Washington, Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Clippers during his 11-year NBA career. A second- round draft pick of the San Antonio Spurs out of Eastern Illinois University in 1986, 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.

Kevin Duckworth grew up outside of Chicago, one of four kids. His dad was a long-haul truck driver, and according to a 1991 profile in The Oregonian, Duckworth and his father grew close during fishing trips. His love of the outdoors continued throughout his lifetime, and at one time he even considered becoming an elk rancher.

They would head up to Wisconsin or Iowa, maybe even stay in Illinois, and catch catfish and bluegill. When they were waiting for the bites, they would talk.

Anyone who has stood casting or sat on a rock, and then started the fire, can attest that hours of sentence fragments and smiles can be more significant in that environment than a year's worth of "how-was-your-day?'' conversations amid the tumult.

That's how Kevin Duckworth got to know his dad.

If someone challenged you to find the father of Portland's starting center and you didn't know where the "house'' seats were located, the stocky man probably wouldn't be your first choice because Edward Duckworth is not a particularly tall man. He's 6 feet. Max.

Yet up close, there are telling resemblances in the voices and faces.

"I was such a shy kid growing up that when I was in grade school and all that, I never said much to my father at all,'' Kevin Duckworth said after the Blazers' practice on Saturday, the eve of Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against Seattle.

"When he was driving the truck all the time, he'd come home and I'd only see him for short stretches. The fishing trips really helped a lot, because we'd go for a day or two at a time. When we started going fishing more and more, I got the opportunity to know him, to understand the kind of man he is.

"I believe that's where my hard work comes from. You think back to how your parents struggled for you, to what they did just so you could have certain things.''

After Kevin Duckworth signed an eight-year, $16 million contract with the Blazers in the summer of 1988 -- he had been making $175,000 a year before that -- he had messages for both his mother, Maxine, and his father, who have been separated for about seven years.

Kevin -- who played basketball at the park down the block from the old family house, then at Thornridge High School in Dolton, Ill., then downstate at Eastern Illinois -- told his parents to pick out houses. He would buy them.

"I told my mom before I even got in the league, 'If I ever get some money, I'm buying you a house.' That was one of my goals,'' said Kevin. "I didn't do it the first two years, but once I got established and I was fortunate enough to have some things happen to me, I could do it.''

Maxine chose a house in South Holland, just east of Harvey.

Edward looked around for three months, finally picking out a three-bedroom home with a full basement and a 2 1/2 -car garage -- right back in the old neighborhood. He's not sure, but he thinks the house cost well under $100,000.