Jerome Kersey, a hard-working forward from a small college who overachieved in pro basketball, starting on two Portland Trail Blazers teams that reached the N.B.A. finals, died on Wednesday in Tualatin, Ore., near Portland. He was 52.
Ashley Stanford Cone, a spokeswoman for Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, confirmed the death.
The Portland newspaper The Oregonian reported that an autopsy on Thursday by the state medical examiner’s office determined the cause of death to be a pulmonary thromboembolism, the result of a blood clot in Kersey’s leg that broke off and migrated to a lung.
In 1984, the year that Kersey graduated from college, Akeem (later known as Hakeem) Olajuwon was the N.B.A.’s No. 1 draft choice, going to the Houston Rockets, and Michael Jordan was taken third, by the Chicago Bulls. Between them, the Blazers took Sam Bowie, a center from Kentucky whose N.B.A. career was derailed by injuries and who became a source of great ache in the hearts of Portland fans, who could only wonder how history might have been different if the team had drafted Jordan instead.
Deep in the second round, however, with the 46th overall pick, the Blazers found an unlikely gem. They chose Kersey, who had played his college ball at Longwood College (now Longwood University) in Farmville, Va., an inconsequential speck in the basketball universe that he put permanently on the map.
He played for six teams over 17 years in pro basketball, including 11 years for Portland. In 2010, The Oregonian rated him the eighth-best Blazer in the team’s history. He is still the only Longwood alumnus to play in the N.B.A.
He was 6 feet 7 inches, tough and muscular, listed at 225 pounds. A diver for loose balls, a rugged defender whose physicality was known leaguewide as an annoyance to the opponents he guarded, and an acrobatic leaper who once finished second to Jordan in the league’s annual slam dunk contest, Kersey played the hustling game of a player bent on proving himself.
The clutch shooter Terry Porter, a teammate, called him “the hardest-playing, most physical player I have ever played with,” and he became known as “Mercy Kersey” after a refrain by the Blazers’ radio announcer, Bill Schonely, who was wont to declare after a dramatic steal or a dunk, “Mercy mercy, Jerome Kersey.”
Kersey recalled his role on the Blazers to The Oregonian in 2010. “My role was to do all the dirty work,” he said. “Get on the fast break, dive for loose balls, grab the rebounds.”
Even so, he was an effective offensive player. Not known early on as a scorer, he applied himself to his midrange jumper and had his best statistical years in the late 1980s, averaging 19.2, 17.5 and 16 points per game in three consecutive seasons.
Playing with strong Blazers teams that included Porter and the smooth shooter and ballhandler Clyde Drexler, a Hall of Famer, as well as big men like Kevin Duckworth, Cliff Robinson and Buck Williams, Kersey was a force, especially in the playoffs.
In 1990, the Blazers lost in the finals to the Detroit Pistons, but Kersey scored 20.7 points per game over 21 postseason contests, grabbing an average of 8.3 rebounds and playing nearly 40 minutes a night.
Two years later, despite another disappointment in the finals, this time at the hands of Jordan’s Bulls, Kersey poured in 16.2 points a game with a field-goal percentage of 51 percent and averaged 7.7 rebounds.
“When he developed that jumper off the dribble, he became a real player,” Drexler said in 2010. “If you played off of him, he could hit that 15- to 20-footer. Now, he was a player with all the intangibles. He was always healthy, always durable, and always played hard.”
Kersey was born in Clarksville, in southern Virginia, on June 26, 1962, and though he played for the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Seattle SuperSonics, the San Antonio Spurs — with whom, playing as a reserve, he won a championship in 1999 — and the Milwaukee Bucks (for whom he also worked as an assistant coach), he remained a Blazer at heart. At his death, he was employed by the team as director of alumni relations, and he lived around Portland for most of his life.
A popular figure in the city, he represented the Blazers at community events and worked for charitable causes, including fund-raising to combat multiple sclerosis. He met his wife, Teri, shortly after she learned she had the disease in 2004. They married in 2013. In addition to his wife, Kersey’s survivors include a daughter.
Jerome Kersey (June 26, 1962 – February 18, 2015) was an American professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played for the Portland Trail Blazers (1984–1995), Golden State Warriors (1995–96), Los Angeles Lakers (1996–97), Seattle SuperSonics (1997–98), San Antonio Spurs (1998–2000), and Milwaukee Bucks (2000–01).
The Trail Blazers selected Kersey in the second round of the 1984 NBA draft from Longwood University (then Longwood College) in Farmville, Virginia. He was a member of the champion Spurs during their 1999 NBA Finals victory over the New York Knicks. Following his playing career, Kersey worked with his former Portland teammate and then-head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks Terry Porter as an assistant in 2005. Kersey died from a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot at his home in Tualatin, Oregon, on February 18, 2015.
Jerome Kersey (June 26, 1962 – February 18, 2015) was an American professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played for the Portland Trail Blazers (1984–1995), Golden State Warriors (1995–96), Los Angeles Lakers (1996–97), Seattle SuperSonics (1997–98), San Antonio Spurs(1998–2000), and Milwaukee Bucks (2000–01).
The Trail Blazers selected Kersey in the second round of the 1984 NBA draft from Longwood University (then Longwood College) in Farmville, Virginia. He was a member of the Spurs during their 1999 NBA Finals victory over the New York Knicks. Following his playing career, Kersey worked with his former Portland teammate an then-head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks Terry Porter as an assistant in 2005. Kersey died from a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot at his home in Tualatin, Oregon on February 18, 2015.
Kersey attended the then Longwood College, at the time a NCAA Division II school, where he set school records for points, rebounds, steals and blocked shots while making 57% of his baskets. As a senior, his rebounding average of 14.2 led all Division II players. However, it was not until May 2006 that Kersey graduated from Longwood, having only needed two more college courses to graduate for some years.
Coming from a school that was not known as a basketball powerhouse, Kersey was selected in the second round of the 1984 NBA Draft (46th overall pick) by Portland. He was a regular contributor from the bench, eventually becoming a starter, and by his third year, he began to shine, even coming in second behindMichael Jordan in the NBA Slam-Dunk Competition.
The following season, 1987–88, was his best statistically, as he averaged 19.2 points and 8.3 rebounds. He became a starter and was part of the nucleus of a strong Portland team, along with Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Buck Williams, and Kevin Duckworth that made it to the NBA Finals two out of the next three years (in 1990 and 1992). However, in subsequent years Clifford Robinson would take his place and Kersey found himself spending more time on the bench.
By 1995, Portland had several talented forwards, and he was left unprotected in that year's expansion draft, when he was selected by the Toronto Raptors, but they waived him before the 1995-96 season began. He signed on with the Golden State Warriors, where he started 58 games. At the end of that calendar year, he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, and he had a quite productive year, logging his most playing time in five seasons – because trades and injuries had left the Lakers thin. The following season (1997–98) saw him go to his fourth team in four years, but injuries kept him out of the Seattle SuperSonics' lineup for most of the season.
For the lockout-shortened 1998–99 season, Kersey found himself on the San Antonio Spurs, providing front-court depth and experience off the bench in the team's title run, although his scoring, rebounding, and minutes played were all career lows. He stayed with the Spurs for another season and, on the hunt for one last NBA Title, spent one final season in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, who fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals. He then retired at the conclusion of the 2000–01 season.
As a Portland Trail Blazer, Kersey was near the top in many of Portland's career categories at the time of his leaving, including games played (second), minutes played (third), scoring (third), rebounding (second), assists (sixth), steals (third), field goals made (fourth), and blocked shots (second).
Following his retirement in 2001, Kersey served as a coach in various capacities for several teams. For a short time, Kersey worked for Wells Fargo home mortgages. During the 2003-04 NBA season, Kersey was hired by the Trail Blazers to serve as director of player programs. After a season in that capacity, Kersey was hired as an assistant coach by the Milwaukee Bucks, where he served under his former Portland teammate, head coach Terry Porter. He served with the Bucks for one year, but was let go (along with Mike Schuler, who coached both Kersey and Porter while in Portland) on May 6, 2005. Porter was subsequently fired as the Bucks' coach later that year. For a period of time following, Kersey joined the automotive industry as an auto wholesaler.
In November 2005, Kersey was in Longwood's first Hall of Fame class. Others included baseball player Michael Tucker and LPGA golfer Tina Barrett.
In 2008, Kersey was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and was selected to receive the 2015 recipient of the William Henry Ruffner Alumni Award, the highest award given to a Longwood alumni.
Kersey married his girlfriend of over 9 years, Teri (Teresa Folsom) Donnerberg, on September 21, 2013, at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Oregon. Together, they have four children from previous relationships. Kersey has one daughter, Kiara, and one granddaughter, Harley Rae. Teri Kersey has three children from a previous marriage: two daughters, McKenzie and Maddie, and one son, Brendan.
On February 18, 2015, Kersey died suddenly at the age of 52. Lake Oswego Fire Department responded to a call from Kersey's home shortly after 5 pm, and he was taken to Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin, Oregon where he died. Just days prior to his death, Kersey underwent knee surgery. On the day of his death, he left the Trail Blazers' Rose Quarter office because he was not feeling well. Medical examiners linked his death to a blood clot that traveled to his lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism.
NBA career statistics
|1996–97||L. A. Lakers||70||44||25.2||.432||.262||.602||5.2||1.3||1.7||.7||6.8|
|1997||L. A. Lakers||9||0||23.3||.486||.000||.789||5.3||1.6||1.0||.7||5.4|