Back in February, it was announced that longtime Portland Trail Blazers broadcaster Bill Schonely was named the 2012 Curt Gowdy Media Award winner by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Gowdy Media Award is named in honor of legendary sports broadcaster and former Hall of Fame Board member and President, the late Curt Gowdy. The prestigious award is presented annually to members of the print and electronic media whose longtime efforts have made a significant contribution to the game of basketball.
A three-time winner of the Oregon Sportscaster of the Year award, Schonely was named Oregon Broadcaster of the Year in 1995. In 2002, Schonely was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Prior to joining the Trail Blazers in 1970, Schonely called games for Major League Baseball's Seattle Pilots, National Hockey League's Oakland Seals, the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League and the University of Washington football team. In 2003, he was honored as Oregon's Sportscaster of the Year while calling games for the Portland Beavers.
On Thursday, Schonely gave a speech at the annual Hall of Fame reunion dinner in advance of Friday's induction ceremony in Springfield, MA.
Here's a transcript of Schonely's speech. Some minor edits have been made for clarification's sake.
Introduction by NBA TV's Rick Kamla
He's a living basketball legend in Oregon. As the founding broadcaster of the Portland Trail Blazers and the unofficial Mayor of Rip City, his 42 years of dedication to this franchise has made him one of the most recognizable and celebrated personalities in the history of the organization. His historic career includes calling well over 2,000 games, including the Trail Blazers' 1977 NBA championship. In addition, he's a member of the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame and one of the most engaged members of his community. Bingo - bango - bongo. Please join me in recognizing the 2012 Curt Gowdy Media Award, representing broadcast media, the Schonz, Bill Schonely.
Bill Schonely's speech
Bill Walton told me I can speak as long as I want. Thank you, Bill. I've known the guy forever, I'm going to tell you a story about him in a little bit.
Thank you all. And thank you to the Naismith Hall of Fame and the Basketball Memorial Museum.
First and foremost, to the late Curt Gowdy, for which this award that I'm receiving tonight, and into the Hall of Fame, is named. One of the truly great voices of our time. Curt was a basketball guy. Many, many years ago before he had the opportunity to do major league baseball, the Boston Red Sox, the National Football League, the American Sportsman. I became a friend of his many years ago. We conversed upon occasion. It was there that I learned a great deal, we sat down and talked with one another about the broadcasting business and how to tell the story of the event that you were broadcasting. I tried to do that all my life.
I got into basketball after I thought I was going to have a career in Major League Baseball. I had been doing Pacific Coast league baseball, Seattle Totems hockey out in the Northwest, the California Golden Seals of the National Hockey League and then finally the Seattle Pilots. The ill-fated Seattle Pilots, who lasted just a shade over a year in the city of Seattle and the now-commissioner of baseball Bud Selig coerced the American League in that time to take that franchise away from the city of Seattle because they didn't have a new stadium on the drawing board at the time. So I had the opportunity to go to Milwaukee but I decided to stay in Seattle for my radio and television work.
There was a gentleman by the name of Harry Gilckman. I owe a great deal to Mr. Glickman. He put the franchise, the Portland Trail Blazers, together and put them on the map back in 1970. I had known Harry through our hockey association and then he called me when he found out that I was still in Seattle and not in baseball, and he said, 'Schonz, how would you like to do NBA basketball?' Well, I was so involved at the time with other things that I didn't have a chance to get involved with the NBA. Well, I had a Major League Baseball broadcasting and then I had an NBA job. So I went from Seattle to Portland, talked to Harry, we talked for about five minutes, shook hands and that was 43 years ago. And I owe a great debt to him.
My partner with the Pilots in baseball was a gentleman, the old-timers will remember this, because he's one of the great voices of our broadcasting era, Jimmy Dudley. Who is now enshrined, as I am going to be enshrined, Jimmy is in the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and tonight it's happening to me. I know the little guy is saying, 'Way to go, Schonz.' I owe a lot of debt to him. He always use to say, his final tag line, was, 'So long, and lots of good luck, ya here.' Because it was a gentleman from West Virginia and I owe a great deal to him.
Basketball has become a very big part of my life over a period of time. Harry Glickman said, 'Now that you're a Portland Trail Blazer, you have to put a radio network together, a TV station, and we'll go on from there.' Well, we worked on that, and it kept growing bigger and bigger and bigger.
I owe a lot to my wife, Dottie, who is sitting back there. And both of our families. We were childhood sweethearts, we've been married for a long time and I love her very much. She's sitting there. And my kids always knew because, you broadcasters would know this. You were out there on assignment somewhere doing whatever event you were scheduled to voice. But the kids could always turn on the radio or watch television and say, 'Hey, that's my dad.' I wasn't always there, for each and every thing, but that was my life and a lot of the broadcasters' lives.
I just tried to tell the story of a game. Each and every night, every day, there was always a story. The beginning, the middle and the end. And you never knew how it would turn out.
As I mentioned, this will be my 43rd year with the Trail Blazers. My thanks to the coaches, the players, all of the broadcasters who are enshrined already. There is a great list of outstanding voices in the game: Curt Gowdy, of course, Marty Glickman, the great Johnny Most, Dick Enberg, Marv Albert, Bob Wolff, Bob Costas, Dick Vitale, Al McCoy, Phoenix, Joe Tait, Cleveland, Hubie Brown, who is here tonight. And, of course, my dear friend, the late Chick Hearn. And there are many, many more. I'm so proud to be a part of that enclave in the Hall of Fame.
And great names in our franchise. Rick Adelman, Geoff Petrie, Jack Ramsay, Lenny Wilkens, Maurice Lucas, the championship team of 1976-1977.
I mentioned Bill Walton at the outset, I've got to tell you a story. It was the year before our championship season. Lenny Wilkens, the great Lenny Wilkens who is enshrined in the Hall, was our coach. We were in Philadelphia at the Spectrum. At the shootaround the day of the game, Walton was hurt, he didn't play for a long period of time. We're at the shootaround and Lenny gathered the team around, I happened to be at the shootaround that day. He said, 'Walton, are you going to be able to play or not?' Walton said, 'No, coach, I don't think I can play, maybe by the time we get home after this road trip, but not tonight.' [Wilkens] said, 'That's enough. I've been waiting for you to tell me to play, we need you out there. If you can't play, I don't want you to sit on the bench. I don't want you to be anywhere near the team tonight. If anything, go over there and sit with Schonz.'
Lo and behold, that night, I'm doing the broadcast. In those days, a long time ago, I didn't have another voice with me, a guy who would do the commentary. It was me. So Walton sat down with me. Now, if you recall the story of the great Bill Walton, he had a stuttering problem. A terrible stuttering problem. His days at UCLA, John Wooden, in essence, would not allow Bill to come out of the locker room after the game and be with the media because he couldn't express himself. That went on in the early days of the Portland Trail Blazers franchise.
And then, as he sat with me that night, he had so many good things to say about the game of basketball. He loves, and I love, and everybody in this room loves. That whetted his appetite to get into the broadcasting business. So he spent time with me, we worked on things, he got the great Marty Glickman and other people to help him. As time went on, he began to express himself more and more and better and better. And lo and behold, now that he can talk, we can't shut him up. I love him, Bill Walton.
My thanks to the committee for this selection tonight. Thanks to the fans. Some of my family is over there. Some of the fans from Portland are here tonight. And our front office, and that's great. Terrific... I thank you very, very much for allowing me to be here tonight.
I came up with a phrase, not only, 'Rip City.' But I used to end the broadcast a lot of times with, 'You've got to make your free throws.' And that's true. I think I made a couple more. Thank you very much.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter