No local team is more popular — or valuable — than the Blazers. Over 50 years, we have been obsessed and proud of everything that is Rip City.
The Portland Trail Blazers entered the league in 1970 as an expansion team. Two other teams made their debut that year: the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Buffalo Braves (Los Angeles Clippers). The addition of three franchises brought the league to 17 teams. Though the trio finished last in their respective divisions, the Blazers managed the best record of all the expansion teams. Only the Clippers haven’t won an NBA Final since.
Seven years after their introduction, the sole Pacific Northwest b-ball franchise claimed its first (and only) title in 1977, even with a total franchisee winning percentage below .400 during that span. In the NBA Finals, they beat Julius Erving (“Doctor J”) and the Philadelphia 76ers 4 games to 2 in the best-of-seven series. They were led by MVP Bill Walton.
Though their fortunes are lottery-bound this year, our city is still completely committed to our small market home team.
Here are Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About The Portland Trail Blazers:
After the relocation of both the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Seattle SuperSonics, the Blazers dominate the bi-national Pacific Northwest region.
From 1977 through 1995, the team sold out 814 consecutive home games, the longest streak in major sports at the time. The Dallas Mavericks broke the NBA record in 2020, boasting an 843 game sellout streak. The Golden State Warriors currently have the longest active sellout marker, ironically breaking their franchise-record against our home team.
Over the last decade — excluding COVID-19 fan restrictions — Portland has ranked seventh overall in home attendance, including four top-five.
Over the last half-century, numerous Hall of Famers and All-Stars have worn the red and black. In fact, Portland has hoisted the second most retired numbers to the rafters in the Association. The team has 12 numbers hanging, with a special acknowledgment to Bill Schonely as a broadcaster. Owner Larry Weinberg #1 was retired in 1992, but as a non-player, his digit is still available to players.
Three of these honorees are in the Hall of Fame — Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler, and Jack Ramsay. In total, six Hall of Famers played for Rip City, and three were head coaches.
Even though Lamarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard will have their jerseys retired post-retirement, the Boston Celtics are still the clear No. 1 in terms of honored numbers. After Kevin Garnett’s retirement, the C’s now have 23 different uniforms dangling at TD Garden.
Drafting Pros and Cons
The Portland Trail Blazers have hit the jackpot and gone bankrupt on draft night. Four Blazers rookies (Damian Lillard, Geoff Petrie, Brandon Roy, and Sidney Wicks) have won the NBA Rookie of the Year award. Fifteen total draftees earned All-Star selections, including first-ever franchise All-Star Sidney Wicks, who was named to the team in each of his first four NBA seasons.
Now, for the notoriously bad: our home team has snubbed eight superstars in favor of busts. Here’s how it went down: LaRue Martin over Julius Erving (1972), Wally Walker over Robert Parish (1976), Mychal Thompson over Larry Bird/Moses Malone (1978), Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan/Charles Barkley/John Stockton (1984), Greg Oden over Kevin Durant (2007).
In history, Rip City has owned the No. 1 pick four times — it only worked out once with Bill Walton.
The name came from the minds of Oregonians. An open franchise contest garnered over 10,000 entries. Out of that pool, 172 people sent the name ‘Trail Blazers’. Other fan vote-getters included ‘Pioneers’ and the ‘Doug Firs’.
The name is meant to translate to “pioneers, or leaders on a path”. Because the actual noun was already trademarked, the marketing team shortened it to two words. To this day, the team has never had the full team name on their jerseys, only the Blazers.
Team founder Harry Glickman sent a personalized letter thanking those that came up with our franchise name.
The pinwheel logo has been synonymous with Portland since 1970. Glickman hired his cousin to create the team’s logo. The interpretation represents two five-on-five basketball teams coming center court and playing against each other.
After illustrating the logo vertically, it was slanted in 1990. The design has remained relatively consistent ever since, besides occasional color changes. Over their 50-year history, the Blazers have had six different logos, but none significantly altered.
It’s so iconic, that current art director Mario Milosevic refused to do much on a revision.
“The original logo is so iconic that it is really hard to change it,” Milosevic said.
Each line of the current iteration is connected to represent teamwork. After conducting a study with 50 photos and 30-40 marketing research participants, 99% chose a team huddle shot. An old woman participating in the focus group even demand they not alter the original pinwheel.
The darkest period came in the early 2000’s during the “Jail Blazers” era when the roster was composed of players who made headlines for the wrong reasons. The 2000-01 team is often considered a top ten most hated team in NBA history. Finishing the season at 40-20, Rasheed Wallace made history by receiving 41 technical fouls throughout the season.
A defensive force on the court, they were a hindrance off. These issues ended up getting the best of them in the playoffs.
Substance and domestic abuse issues plagued many on the roster. Things got so bad, that it eventually inspired the 753-page book “Jail Blazers: How The Portland Trail Blazers Became The Bad Boys Of Basketball”.
For more interesting formation on Portland sports, check out “The Greatest Professional Athletes From Oregon.”