How the Media Covered Clyde Drexler's 1995 Trade Request
In the second of a two-part series, a look at how local and national media outlets covered the divorce of Drexler and the Trail Blazers.
The Oregonian (Jan. 5, 1995)
It’s been nearly a month since Damian Lillard requested a trade out of Portland on July 1. Almost nothing has actually happened as it relates to the situation, in terms of substantive trade talks between the Trail Blazers and Miami Heat, or any other team. But that hasn’t stopped it from being a talking point all over the media every single day, which it will continue to be until Lillard is traded—or not.
Early on in this ordeal, I became curious how the coverage of Lillard’s trade request different from those of Bill Walton in 1978 and Clyde Drexler in 1995. Last week, we dove into newspaper and magazine articles around Walton’s exit from Portland; today, we take a look at Drexler.
There are obvious differences between those two situations and Lillard’s. Walton’s trade request was driven by his concerns over the Blazers’ medical staff’s handling of his foot and ankle injuries, which he believed to be unethical. Drexler’s was about money, but also about wanting a chance to contend when the Blazers were clearly going young. Money isn’t a factor with Lillard—he’s been paid extremely well in his time in Portland—but the other concerns, and the rhetoric around them, are very similar to Drexler’s exit.
One big difference I found is that while Walton's separation from the Blazers was national news in the sports world in the late ‘70s, Drexler's trade request was barely covered outside of Portland. Reporters from outlets like Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News passed along Drexler-related trade rumors occasionally, but the story mostly flew under the radar nationally. (This probably had something to do with the fact that it played out during the start of the O.J. Simpson trial in January of 1995.)
The biggest difference between the Walton/Drexler coverage and the Lillard coverage—and maybe this is just a byproduct of social media not existing in the 1990s and every quote not getting amplified out of context on a minute-by-minute basis—is how many fewer anonymous sources there were back then. You’d see them here and there, for trade negotiations that weren’t authorized to be public. But for the most part, people just said stuff and put their name on it.
And some of the stuff Drexler said on the record about the Blazers organization, which you’ll see below, is far harsher than anything you’d see about a team from a player today, even laundered through their agent or a reporter obviously getting marching orders from one side or another.
It’s worth noting that Drexler, while he was saying these things about the Blazers, still showed up and played—very well—until he was traded. They’re different situations, but that bears pointing out.
As a side note, it was a bit of a trip to read Oregonian articles from when I was in kindergarten in the mid-’90s and see bylines from people I know personally and consider colleagues, like Dwight Jaynes and Kerry Eggers.
I’ve found this whole exercise fascinating and I hope you will, too.