As the latest NBA draft class was announced in late June and ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz read off the draftees’ platitudes and ran through their career highlights, I was struck, as I am every year, by an inescapable conclusion. Some of these players might be stars, some could have fairly decent careers, yet most will be busts who leave the league within a few years. Even Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, the most heralded choices in the draft, know that they aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be superstars. Since the NBA draft became a big deal when it became televised, the league has seen its share of its celebrated draft headliners turn into busts, from Greg Oden and Michael Olowokandi to Kwame Brown and Pervis Ellison. These names are relatively well-known to NBA fans as busts who have had trouble shaking the shadows of their would-be fame. Today’s busts could learn, however, from the life of a once-heralded player from the NBA’s relatively-forgotten 1970s timeframe, a Chicagoan named LaRue Martin.
When I was a little boy and the number two came up, sometimes my dad would sometimes yell out “Two for LaRue!” For years, I had no clue what he was talking about, nor was I even curious. Then when I was ten years old, I got a copy of Steve Cameron’s book Rip City! for my birthday. This celebration of the Blazers’ 25th anniversary covered Blazers highlights and lowlights, including, I noticed, a brief discussion of a guy named LaRue Martin. I asked my dad if this had anything to do with “Two for LaRue!” He explained to me that when he was a young man listening to Blazers radio broadcasts, announcer Bill Schonely would sarcastically yell out “Two for LaRue!” every time Martin scored. Turns out Schonely was pretending to celebrate the unfortunately rare occasions—typically in garbage time—when Martin would finally get a basket. As a result, I began to wonder what happened to LaRue.