NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers History

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BlazerThis could be a terrific year for sports fans in the Pacific Northwest! The Seattle Seahawks in the NFL appear poised for a long run (and probable Super Bowl appearance) and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers are having a banner year after a series disappointing rebuilding seasons.

While Portland has largely adopted both the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners as their own, the local basketball team, the Portland Trail Blazers, are unequivocally ours. Allegiance to another, especially those diabolical Los Angeles Lakers, would be a form of high treason, punishable by fits of mockery and maybe the occasional “Kobe Bryant Sucks” yelled in your face.

Yes, the Trail Blazers are as essential to Stump Town as roses, beer, vegan food carts, and rain.

They began playing in 1970 in the Memorial Coliseum. In 1995, they moved to the Rose Garden which was renamed the Moda Center in 2013. In 43 seasons (not counting the current one) they have made the playoffs 29 times, won one NBA championship (1977) and have competed for two others.

From 1983 through 2003, they made the playoffs every single season… a 21 season streak that is still an NBA record. The Trail Blazers have a loyal fan base. Even in down seasons, they routinely sell out the arena, promising a loud and supportive crowd that sticks by the team at all times. We boo the refs, cheer the miraculous shots and hold our heads in disbelief right along with the twelve men in scarlet, black and white on the hardwood.

Bill Schonely (The Schonz), the play-by-play announcer for the Portland Trail Blazers for many years, coined the nickname “Rip City” during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 18, 1971, the Blazers’ inaugural season. On that fateful day, Blazers’ guard Jim Barnett took an unwise long distance shot (this was in the days before the three pointer) that nevertheless went right through the hoop, giving the nascent team hope for a win against the dominant, reputable and soon to be hated Lakers. Thrilled, Schonely cried out “Rip City! All right!” The Schonz confesses that he has no inkling as to how he came up with the name but it has become synonymous with the team and the city of Portland, Oregon.

In 1990, several Portland Trail Blazers teamed with local radio station, Z100, to record two rap singles “Rip City Rhapsody” and “Bust a Bucket.”  The 1991 squad began the season with nineteen wins and only one loss, still one of the best starts in NBA history.

The Trail Blazers also have the dubious distinction of drafting the oft injured Center Sam Bowie over this guy named Michael Jordan. Sam Bowie played a few injury riddled seasons in the NBA while Michael Jordan went on to become the greatest basketball player in the world. While it may seem like the Blazers made a huge mistake overlooking Jordan, at the time (1986) the Blazers were employing a young superstar named Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, who played the same position as Michael Jordan. Drexler played many years in Portland and is considered by many to be the greatest Portland Trail Blazer in history.

More recently, a similar draft blunder was made when the Trail Blazers selectedanother center,  Greg Oden over power forward Kevin Durant. Durant has gone on to become one of the top young players in the game while Greg Oden is currently out of the league due to numerous injuries. But, the Trail Blazers had (and still have) LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the top power forwards in the game.

The Trail Blazers have had draft success as well. They drafted both Brandon Roy and Damian Lillard, both of whom won rookie of the year honors.

Other notable Portland Trail Blazers are Bill Walton, Damon Stoudamire, Terry Porter, “Mercy Mercy” Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams, Cliff Robinson, Arvydas Sabonas, RaSHEEED Wallace, Danny Ainge, Zach Randolph and late greats Kevin Duckworth, Drazen Petrovich and Maurice Lucas.

Former Trail Blazer, Chris Dudley, ran unsuccessfully for governor against John Kitzhaber.

Whether or not basketball is your thing, the Portland Trail Blazers offer a fun experience and form a community that we can all be a part of, regardless of class, race, religion, or political ideologies. To be a Trail Blazer fan is to be a part of something special. Truly, for those 48 minutes on game day, we are all one in Rip City. Go Blazers!