The Portland Fail Blazers: A Sad Series of Tales

By Charlie Stanton

I know there are a lot of students at Mac from Portland, so I decided to do some research on their favorite team, the Portland Trail Blazers. I came to this conclusion: The Portland Trail Blazers are one of the most unfortunate franchises in the history of sports. I’m not even from Portland and I think this is a worthy story. Rewind to 1977. The Trail Blazers won their first championship against the Philadelphia 76ers. They came back from being two games down. The future was mind-bogglingly bright for the organization. Star big man, Bill Walton was an NBA Jesus (with a red afro), destined to be one of the best players in league history. He was surrounded by some fantastic role players and they were tagged by many as a “dynasty.” A dynasty…after only winning one championship. The Blazers won 58 games the following year and lost to Seattle (ouch!) in the conference finals. The worst part about the’78 season is that Bill Walton sustained a series of foot injuries that would haunt him for the rest of his career. The one year “dynasty” was gone. Walton sat the ’79 season and then requested a trade. His wish was granted when he was traded to the Clippers a year later. From 1980-1989, the Blazers made the playoffs every year with the exception of ’82. That’s nine chances to win an NBA championship. The Lakers ran shop during the 80s with Magic Johnson and crew. That’s still not an excuse for going 0-9 in the playoffs. In 1983, the Blazers drafted Clyde “The Glide” Drexler out of the University of Houston. Drexler was a player who they could build a team around now that Walton was gone. In 1983, something happened. It’s safe to say that the Blazers messed up, really messed up. Like “someone needs to get fired” messed up. They had the second pick in the draft in 1983. The Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon as the first pick. The Blazers followed by picking Sam Bowie. The Chicago Bulls followed by picking an above average basketball player out of the University of North Carolina by the name of Michael Jordan. Oops. Someone must have been thrown in the Columbia River after that one. Over his ten-year career, Bowie averaged roughly 11 points and eight rebounds a game. Jordan might have done a little better…maybe. The Blazers wanted to immediately replace Bill Walton who was really irreplaceable. Bowie had a history of injuries and Portland ended up with a solid big man, who was pretty good. Despite these unfortunate occurrences, Clyde Drexler stayed with the Blazers and made the finals in 1990 and 1992. In both finals series, they lost to the Detroit Pistons in 1990 and, you guessed it, Chicago in 1992. They made the playoffs in 1993 and 1994 and couldn’t get past the first round. It probably wouldn’t have mattered in those years because the Bulls would have destroyed them anyways. I do have a Chicago bias, but in this case, the Blazers really didn’t have a chance. The early 2000s brought on the “Jail Blazers” led by Shawn Kemp who claimed to be the father of at least seven different children with seven different mothers (TOP STUFF Shawn). The team of convicts had talent, but they couldn’t stay out of legal trouble or play together. In 2006, the Blazers drafted guard Brandon Roy (finally a great guard!). They improved by 11 games the following season. Portland won the lottery and got the first pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Who would they draft? Center Greg Oden or scoring forward Kevin Durant? Greg Oden was the big man that the Blazers always wanted, right? So they drafted him which was eerily similar to the Sam Bowie deal. Oden had a history of injuries. He sat out the 2007 season with knee problems while Kevin Durant won Rookie of the Year. In 2009, Durant became the youngest player ever to win the scoring title. Oden has yet to play a full season in the NBA. At the beginning of the 2012 season, three-time All-Star Brandon Roy retired from basketball because of his chronic knee issues. Without injuries and bad drafts, the Portland Trail Blazers could have been the most successful sports franchise in basketball history. Thankfully though, the Blazers past front office was full of nimrods, and the Chicago Bulls became the most successful team in NBA history. The Fail Blazers aren’t bad this year. They will make the playoffs and will probably fall to Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oh, the irony of sports!