1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204
My family moved to Oregon in 1973. And the Trail Blazers, as much as anything else, were what made me into a true Oregonian. We had lived in Northern California and I loved the Warriors, with Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry. But when we moved to Cottage Grove, we discovered Bill Schonely’s Blazer radio broadcasts. (We didn’t have a TV at that point.) The team wasn’t very good, but Schonely was terrific, and he made us into fans. By the time the Warriors won the title in a 1975 shocker, I couldn’t have enjoyed it like the true Warriors fan I had been; I belonged to the Blazers.
I never would have guessed that being a Blazer fan would pay off so quickly. But soon Schonely had some help. The Blazers got Bill Walton. And Maurice Lucas. And Jack Ramsay – the coach who molded that team into a beautiful thing to watch, with great ball movement, a deadly fast break, and, as so many others have said, a team-over-individual ethos.
I confess I don’t really remember the first round in 1977. But I remember beating the dangerous Denver Nuggets. I remember the unthinkable sweep of Kareem’s Lakers. I remember those two grim losses in Philadelphia. I remember the Blazers running the Sixers off the court the next two games in Portland. And I remember the Sixers’ last desperate shots, and the ball bouncing out the last seconds of play, in Game Six. We didn’t live in Portland; we didn’t go to the parade. But it was one of the greatest moments of my childhood.
Winning a championship, at least in my case, doesn’t just give you joy for a year; it makes it easier to appreciate every succeeding year. I loved watching the Blazers knock off the Utah Jazz, or the Phoenix Suns, or the Spurs, in assorted playoff series in the 1990’s – but I could live with the defeats, because we already had our championship. Sure, it hurt to blow that 17-point lead to the Lakers in Game 7; hurt like hell. But it would have hurt so much worse if we didn’t have ’77 in the bag. This year, of course I’d go nuts if they won at all, but it will be great if they just finish off the Rockets.
So thank you, Jack Ramsay. Thanks for being a brilliant - and stylish - coach. Thanks for giving me and hundreds of thousands of Blazer fans the most meaningful sports victory of our lifetimes. Thank you for making every Blazer game for the past 37 years more enjoyable than they otherwise would have been. Because of you, we’re not Cubs fans, or Cavaliers fans, or Vikings fans, or Astros fans. We don’t go through every season wondering if victory will never come. Because of you – and Walton, Hollins, Lucas, Gross, Neal, Steele, Twardzik, Gilliam, Davis, Calhoun, Jones and Walker – we are champions.