Q&A with Clyde Drexler

Former Trail Blazers great Clyde Drexler is in the Philippines for NBA Madness, the league’s annual interactive event that runs from September 28 through October 2.

And while in Manila, the Hall of Fame shooting guard gave a phone interview with The Columbian that touched on his playing days, his broadcasting chops, his toughest cover, and of course — Al Bundy.

Below is a Q&A.

The Columbian: So how are you enjoying the Philippines?

Clyde Drexler: It’s a lot of fun. The people here truly embrace the sport and its history just as much as they do in the United States.

Col: So they recognized you the same way people here would?

CD: Absolutely. It’s like I played a game last night!

Col: If you could relive any one moment during your time in Portland, what it would be?

CD: I think I enjoyed each and every moment. That’s what made it all special. I was in Portland 11 and a half seasons. That’s a long time.  Every day was a Saturday, and the fans were incredible — so kind. I continue to stay there to this day. I’ve never left Portland.

Col: OK, if you could do one thing over again during your time in Portland, what would it be?

CD: If I could one thing over what would it be? Hmmm. As a player or administratively?

Col: Um, as a player, I guess.

CD: How about administratively?

Col: OK, administratively. What would you do?

CD: I’d go back to that 1984 draft and try to influence that coin flip result. Then it would have been a no-brainer.

(The Blazers lost a coin flip prior to the 1984 draft that gave the Rockets the rights to the first pick. Houston took Hakeem Olajuwon, Portland infamously drafted Sam Bowie second, and Chicago selected Michael Jordan third.)

Col: But you could have had Michael regardless of the coin flip!

CD: At that time, Hakeem was the guy you needed to compete against Kareem. He really would have rounded out our team.

Col: Yeah, but somehow I feel like you and Michael would have figured something out.

CD: Oh, definitely! We would have played the same way he and Scottie (Pippen) played together.

Col: Who was the toughest player you ever had to guard?

CD: For me — Rolando Blackman. He gave me fits. He had a quick first step, and when he went by you and pulled up for that jumper, he’d hit it every time. When he was in his prime, he was unguardable. The only reason you got a break was because he didn’t take 35 shots a game.

Col: So you think if he took a few more shots we would have a whole different perception of Rolando?

CD: Guys in our era played team basketball. Rarely would you see a guy put up 35 shots in a game. That wasn’t considered team basketball. That wasn’t how we were brought up.

Col: What’s a good behind-the-scenes memory during your time in Barcelona with the Dream Team?

CD: Wow, the whole thing was a great memory. Those were guys that I would have never gotten to play with on the same team otherwise. That was phenomenal. Back then, when we competed, we respected the guys on the other team, but we wanted to beat them bad.

Col: Did it take a day for you guys to get over the fact that you weren’t enemies anymore?

CD: Oh, absolutely. At least two or three days. To quote the former Celtic Cedric Maxwell, when talking about the Lakers. “If I saw one of those guys stranded on the freeway, and I’m driving by, not only would I not help them — I’d run them over.” It was that kind of competitive spirit.

Col: Speaking of a former Celtic, I heard a story once about you talking trash to Larry Bird, him brushing you off and saying something like “You’re just a rookie,” then scoring 10 points on you in about five minutes. Any truth to that?

CD: Larry talked trash to everyone. I did very little trash talking, but I had one liners. He’d say something like “Hey rookie, you know you can’t guard me, right?” But when I had the ball, I’d say, “I might not be able to guard you, but you got NO CHANCE of guarding me.” He laughed at that. He thought that was funny.

Col: When is the last time you dunked a basketball?

CD: I dunked last week. I’m 49 and can do almost everything I used to do. I can still jump high, but I got a few kinks. For instance, I can still run fast, but I don’t have the brakes to stop.

Col: So could you get out there and play for five minutes?

CD: I could definitely play for five or 10 minutes. But then I’d need a week off. 

Col: It’s long been debated who the greatest Blazer of all time is, you or Bill Walton. My question is — who’s the better broadcaster?

CD: That’s a toss up, too. Bill’s had a lot of success and he’s a good friend of mine. And it’s hard for me to talk about myself, you know that. He had a lot of health problems, but he won a championship. It would have been great to have him here for 12 years or so, though.

Col: So you won’t compare Boris Diaw to Beethoven like Bill will?

CD: (Laughs) Bill definitely has his own thing going.

Col: You did a guest spot on “Married with Children.” What was Al Bundy like between takes?

CD: Oh, he was phenomenal. He used to play football, you know.

Col: I know. He scored four touchdowns in one game, right?

CD: (Pause) Yeah, he used to play football before going into acting, and he’s just a super guy. That whole cast was great.

Col: What gave you more profile, your 15 years as an NBA star, or your five weeks on Dancing With the Stars?

CD: Hey, I was there seven weeks. (Laughs) But I think I’d have to say my 15 years in the NBA. Come on. You’re trying to short me and say I was only there five weeks!

Col: My bad, my bad. So you’re still dancing then?

CD: Man, I couldn’t wait to get off that show.

Col: When the NBA celebrated its 50 greatest players of all time at the All-Star game in ’97, you went out there in a Rockets jacket and not a Blazers. Would you have done it differently if you had the chance?

CD: That was an interesting point in time. I was playing for the Rockets at the time, and maybe it was a little presumptuous of me. But, I mean, I played 11 and a half great seasons with the Blazers, and I played 3 and a half years with Rockets and won a championship. It’s tough. You tell me which was better. (laughs).

Col: You played with Charles Barkley in Houston and Barcelona. Any great Chuck memories?

CD: I’d like to talk about Hakeem memories. We won a championship together. He came to this country from Nigeria and through hard work and determination, became one of the great players of all time. That’s a story right there.

Col: What are your goals for the future?

CD: Enjoy life. Do things for the day. Be the best father I can be. Right now I got three kids in college and one on the way.

Col: I thought you were going to say become a scratch golfer, but I guess that answer works, too.

CD: “I’m a 2 handicap! I’m almost there.”

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com

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