FanPost

Blazer for Life

Kobe recently signed a 2 year extension, and signalled that this will (probably) be his last NBA contract. When the contract is over, Kobe will have played all 20 seasons for the L*kers. Kobe: A L*ker for Life.

This got me thinking about the list of Blazers for Life.

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There have been 20 players who have played at least 6 seasons for the Blazers:

Blazer Length of Service Years Played
Clyde Drexler 11 seasons, 41 games 1983-84(d) thru 1994-95*
Jerome Kersey 11 seasons 1984-85(d) thru 1994-95
Terry Porter 10 seasons 1985-86(d) thru 1994-95
Larry Steele ** 9 seasons 1971-72(d) thru 1979-80
Jim Paxson 8 seasons, 17 games 1979-80(d) thru 1987-88*
Cliff Robinson 8 seasons 1989-90(d) thru 1996-97
Rasheed Wallace 7 seasons, 45 games 1996-97 thru 2003-04*
Damon Stoudamire 7 seasons, 22 games 1997-98* thru 2004-05
LaMarcus Aldridge 7 seasons, 18 games + 2006-07(d) thru ?
Arvydas Sabonis **
7 seasons 1995-96(d) thru 2002-03 (dnp 2001-02 season)
Lloyd Neal ** 7 seasons 1972-73(d) thru 1978-79
Buck Williams 7 seasons 1989-90 thru 1995-96
Mychal Thompson 7 seasons 1978-79(d) thru 1985-86 (dnp 1979-80 season)
Bob Gross 7 seasons 1975-76(d) thru 1981-82
Mark Bryant 7 seasons 1988-89(d) thru 1994-95
Joel Przybilla 6 seasons, 58 games (31 games, 27 games) 2004-05 thru 2010-11*, 2011-12
Kevin Duckworth 6 seasons, 51 games 1986-87* thru 1992-93
Travis Outlaw 6 seasons, 11 games 2003-04(d) thru 2009-10*
Geoff Petrie ** 6 seasons 1970-71(d) thru 1975-76
Zach Randolph 6 seasons 2001-02(d) thru 2006-07

(d) drafted by the Blazers/or acquired draft day
* traded midseason
** Blazer for Life
+ a current player

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The Blazers for Life:

Arvydas Sabonis (7 seasons)

Drafted by the Blazers in 1986, the 7'3" Sabonis was forced to stay in the USSR until the fall of the Iron Curtain. For years he played ball domestically, and was the starting center for the Soviets 1988 Gold Medal Olympics team, in which he led the Soviets over the US.

This loss was the first ever non controversial loss(see: 1972 Gold Medal Game) for the US in Olympics basketball, and led to the changing of Olympics rules which created the 1992 US Dream Team. "I think," Sabonis said with a pause and a deep chuckle, "I think something happened."

Despite not being allowed to play for the Blazers due to the political climate, Sabonis was regularly treated by the Blazers training staff for his knee, Achilles' tendon, and foot injuries.

Trader Bob remarked prior to signing Sabonis for the 1995 season: "Arvydas could qualify for a handicapped parking spot based on the X-ray alone."

When he finally did play for the Blazers, he was magnificent. His rookie season, aged 31, Sabonis averaged 14.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2 apg, 1 spg, and 1 bpg, while setting a Blazers record 24.7 season PER. During the 7 year career with the Blazers, he had 6 seasons with a PER greater than 20, and was a dominant defensive presence. He finished his Blazer career averaging 12ppg, 7.3rpg, 2.1apg, 1.1bpg, and 0.8spg.

He didn't play for the Blazers during the 2001-02 season, playing for his Lithuanian childhood team BC Zalgiris instead. When he returned, he played just 1 more NBA season, averaging just 6ppg and 4rpg in 15 min/game, before once again returning to BC Zalgiris and finishing off his 21 year professional career.

How frustrating it must have been for Blazers owner Paul Allen to own the rights to Sabonis(during his prime) during the Drexler era, and instead be forced to start Kevin Duckworth at center.

Sabonis was enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame in 2011.

When will the Blazers be retiring Sabonis' #11 jersey?

Geoff Petrie (6 seasons) (Blazers retired his #45)

Previously, I've written at length about Geoff Petrie. He's the First Trailblazer drafted and under contract. For the first several seasons in the NBA, the Blazers paired up Petrie with Rick Adelman in the backcourt. He was also the first Blazer to have his career cut short by knee injuries, having to retire before the Blazers won the NBA Championship. While he was traded to the Hawks for the draft pick that ended up being Lionel Hollins, he never reported, and instead retired.

"He was still living in Portland when the Blazers won the championship and in the days after the parade, he and a group that included Bill Walton went on a rafting trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho." (Jason Quick)

He is credited as the first NBA player to make the switch from Converse to Nike shoes.

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Post playing career, Petrie worked for the Blazers in the front office and as radio commentator. He became the GM in Sacramento in 1994, and continued this job until last season. His track record on draft picks is remarkable (see the First Trailblazer), including his last pick, current Blazer, Thomas Robinson.


Lloyd Neal (7 seasons) (Blazers retired his #36)

Drafted in 1972, Lloyd 'Ice' Neal was All-Rookie for the Blazers. His rookie season he averaged 13ppg and 11rpg. At just 6'7" on a good day, he played center and power forward for the Blazers. During the Championship season, he came off the bench to spell Bill Walton and the Enforcer, Maurice Lucas.

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Like Geoff Petrie, his career was cut short by a knee injury, playing just 4 games in his final season. According to his Blazers bio, he's lived in Portland ever since, working for the IRS since 1985.

An excerpt about a Lloyd Neal moment during his final season, from from 'The Breaks of the Game' by David Halberstam:

At the halftime the Portland players had filed into the dressing room and one of the other players, impressed that so famous and yet now so manic a presence was seated so close to them, asked Ice if he knew who his neighbor was. No, he said, who? "Jack Nicholson, Ice," someone had answered. "You mean the little fellow, not much hair?" Neal asked. "Yes." "Who's he?" "A movie star. Did a picture One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." "Oh yeah," said Ice, "I know who he is, that guy." The others were not so sure whether Neal had seen the movie or not, they could never tell about Ice, whether he was smarter than they thought but playing dumb, or dumber than they thought but playing smart. In the second half Nicholson had kept up his cheering, loud, partisan, a noise which fell relentlessly upon the Portland bench. Then, late in the game, at a crucial moment, the game hanging in the balance, the Lakers had made a run and Kareem had gone out for a shot and as he did, Walton had gone up too and he had blocked it, and even as Walton reached the apex of his jump, his hand outstretched, the entire Portland bench had been aware of an even more dramatic moment: Lloyd Neal rising up out of his seat, huge now, intimidating, a great dark-visaged figure pointing a massive and threatening finger in a massive threatening hand at the suddenly tiny Nicholson. The others had watch this tableau, it seemed frozen in time for them, as if to symbolize the team's new invincibility, that they would not be beaten, not by Kareem, not by Los Angeles, not even by rich and celebrated actors, for there was Ice screaming at Nicholson, "Take that, mother-****ing cuckoo!"

Larry Steele (9 seasons) (Blazers retired his #15)

He played both the shooting guard and small forward spot, and led the league in steals in the 1974 season. He began his Blazers career as a starter, but served as a backup to 1975 Blazers first round draft pick and former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and Bob Gross during the Championship season. During his Blazer career, he averaged 8 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg, and almost 2 spg. Sadly, like many before and after him, his career too was cut short by knee injuries, forced to retire during the 1979-80 season, playing just 16 games his final season.

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He later worked in the Blazers front office and marketing, before coaching the University of Portland from 1987-94.

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Grouping the players with 6 or more years of Blazer service together by 'eras:
(Of note, 15 of the 20 players with 6 or more years of Blazer service were drafted by the team)

The Early Years:

Blazer Length of Service Years Played
Larry Steele * 9 seasons 1971-72(d) thru 1979-80
Geoff Petrie * 6 seasons 1970-71(d) thru 1975-76
Lloyd Neal * 7 seasons 1972-73(d) thru 1978-79
Bob Gross 7 seasons 1975-76(d) thru 1981-82

Three of the four Blazers for Life came from this group.

Minus Geoff Petrie, these players all won an NBA Championship whilst wearing the Blazers uniform.

Transition Period:

Blazer Length of Service Years Played
Mychal Thompson 7 seasons 1978-79(d) thru 1985-86 (dnp 1979-80 season)
Jim Paxson 8 seasons, 17 games 1979-80(d) thru 1987-88*

After winning a Championship in Jack Ramsey' first season, the Blazers fell victim to the injury bug, which started a string of first round playoff losses, culminating in missing the playoffs in the 1981-82 season.

Mychal Thompson, the #1 pick in the 1978 draft, is the father of Golden State sharpshooter Klay Thompson.

The mid 1980s thru early 1990s Era:

Blazer Length of Service Years Played
Clyde Drexler (HOF)
11 seasons, 41 games 1983-84(d) thru 1994-95*
Jerome Kersey 11 seasons 1984-85(d) thru 1994-95
Terry Porter 10 seasons 1985-86(d) thru 1994-95
Cliff Robinson 8 seasons 1989-90(d) thru 1996-97
Mark Bryant 7 seasons 1988-89(d) thru 1994-95
Buck Williams 7 seasons 1989-90 thru 1995-96
Kevin Duckworth 6 seasons, 51 games 1986-87* thru 1992-93

This group dominates the Blazers career leader boards in almost every statistic. Shout out to the Blazers organization for drafting 5 of these players. In fact, Arvydas Sabonis was also drafted by the Blazers during this era(1986), but wasn't allowed to cross the Iron Curtain to play for the Blazers.

Personally, my parents moved us from the Bay area to Hillsboro in 1989, so this is the generation of players that I grew up watching.

Growing up my mother bought Franz whole wheat bread, which sucked as a kid; but nothing was better than getting the Blazers trading cards from the loafs of bread.

This group advanced to 3 consecutive Western Conference Finals, and 2 NBA Finals.

The Jail Blazers Era:

Blazer Length of Service Years Played
Rasheed Wallace 7 seasons, 45 games 1996-97 thru 2003-04*
Damon Stoudamire 7 seasons, 22 games 1997-98* thru 2004-05
Arvydas Sabonis (HOF)
7 seasons 1995-96(d) thru 2000-01, 2002-03
Zach Randolph 6 seasons 2001-02(d) thru 2006-07

Following the breakup of the team in 1995, the Blazers immediately regrouped, finally bringing over Sabonis, and building a team around him.

Sadly, when this era ended, it would become the 'Jail Blazers.'

This group would advance to back to back Western Conference Finals, being beaten once each by two of the Three Kings, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.

Transition Period:

Blazer Length of Service Years Played
Joel Przybilla 6 seasons, 58 games (31 games, 27 games) 2004-05 thru 2010-11*, 2011-12
Travis Outlaw 6 seasons, 11 games 2003-04(d) thru 2009-10*

A sad period in our franchises history, the Blazers were unwinding from the 'Jail Blazers Era' and going through a rebuild. During this period, the Blazers hardly made the playoffs, and when they did, the Blazers were bounced in the first round.

Joel Przybilla, is a local cult hero, and arguably the reason we now have Damian Lillard (see Bobcats/Nets trades).

The Current Era:

Blazer Length of Service Years Played
LaMarcus Aldridge 7 seasons, 18 games + 2006-07(d) thru ?
Nicolas Batum 5 seasons, 18 games + 2008-09(d) thru ?

I'm going to include Batum here because he is his 6th NBA season for the Blazers.

Here's to hoping the LaMarcus Aldridge will be the next Blazer for Life.

And preferably, the only Blazer for Life that doesn't suffer career modifying injuries.

Go Blazers!

Cheers.

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