It was March 23, 1970, the day of the 24th annual NBA draft.
Seventeen NBA teams were going to be drafting, including three expansion teams: the Portland Trailblazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Buffalo Braves(San Diego Clippers, and now known as the LA Clippers). For the first time in league history, the league was separated into a Western and Eastern Conference.
The Portland Trailblazers had the 8th overall pick in the 1970 draft.
Before their pick, 3 Hall of Famers(Bob Lanier, Dave Cowens, and Pistol Pete Maravich) and 3 other future All-stars(Rudy Tomjanovich, Sam Lacey, and John Johnson) were selected.
The Trailblazers drafted Geoff Petrie: the First Trailblazer.
When asked what it was like to be a Blazer: "I was just excited to be drafted to start with. After going to Portland and being a part of the new expansion franchise and seeing how great the city was. It was the best of all worlds. I have always felt good about being part of the beginnings of something that has became part of the fabric of the community."
He was the first Trailblazer under contract, signing a three-year, $150,000 contract.
Paired with Rick Adelman in the backcourt, the Blazers were in for a rough inaugural season.
While the Blazers finished dead last in the Western Conference, with a record of 29-53, Petrie had the making of a superstar.
While the 3 point line didn't exist in the 1970-71 season, Petrie was known for his ability to knock down shots from anywhere; he was a deadly shooter, without range or conscience.
On Sept. 26, 1970, the Blazers played their first pre-season game, against the San Francisco Warriors, in the Roseburg High School gym: Petrie leads the Blazers to a 116-113 win, scoring 22 points.
In the first couple months, the NBA discovered the greatness of Geoff Petrie. Rewarding his skill, Geoff Petrie was nominated to the All-star game before even finishing his rookie season: The First Trailblazer to make an All-star game.
He finished his rookie season being co-Rookie of the Year with Celtics legend Dave Cowens: The First Trailblazer to win Rookie of the Year.
He finished his rookie campaign as the league's 7th highest scorer, scoring 2031 points. In NBA history, only 7 other players have scored 2000+ points in their rookie season(with Oscar Robinson and Michael Jordan being the only other guards).
Petrie also finished his rookie campaign with 390 assists, the NBA's 14th highest assist total. His backcourt mate, Rick Adelman, the first Trailblazers captain, finished the season with 380 assists, the NBA's 17th highest assist total.
In his second year, he continued his dominance, and has been credited as being the first NBA player to make the switch from Converse to Nike shoes.
However, his dominance wasn't to be; and sadly, like so many other Blazers, Petrie would be sidelined by an ACL injury, during his second NBA season.
Later in life, Petrie, responding to a question about his injury: "Tore the ACL in my left knee, (and) never was the same; It really got to me later in my basketball career, because the surgery to repair such an injury was very experimental at the time."
After returning from injury, Petrie would put up some stellar numbers, but was never the same player he was during his rookie season. Despite still being bothered by the injury and playing alongside All-star Sidney Wicks(1972 Rookie of the Year), Geoff Petrie once again led the Blazers in scoring, during his third and fourth seasons.
On Jan. 20, 1973 and March 16, 1973, Petrie put up 50+ point nights, both against the Houston Rockets, showing some of the flair he had displayed in his rookie season.
When asked about the 50+ point nights against the Rockets, Petrie replied: "That's the most interesting thing about the story. It was after the game in Houston, and (Newlin) said something in the paper afterward. That I just 'got hot ... got lucky ... and that I will never do it again.'" The next time Petrie faced the Rockets, he dropped another 50+ point night.
Petrie is the only Blazer to ever have 2 50+ point nights. In fact, the Blazers have only experienced 4 other 50+ point nights in our history(Brandon Roy - 12/18/08, Damon Stoudamire - 1/14/05, Clyde Drexler - 1/6/89, and Andre Miller - 1/30/10).
In the 1973-74 season, Geoff Petrie would be selected to his second and final All-star team.
The only Blazers with more All-star team selections are Clyde Drexler(8x, 1986-1994), Sidney Wicks(4x, 1972-75), Brandon Roy(3x, 2008-2010), and Maurice Lucas(3x, 1977-79).
Thirteen times Geoff Petrie scored more than 40 points, all in his first 4 seasons with the team.
In 75 of his 446 Blazer appearances, Petrie put up at least 30 points. In 274 of his 446(62%) of his Blazers appearances, Petrie put up at least 20 points.
Unfortunately, the ACL injury was starting to take it's toll. "I was taking a lot of anti-inflammatories and having the occasional injections," Petrie said. "The cutting, the jumping, the planting, I couldn’t do it …what happens is you start to play around with things. By my sixth year, I was really struggling."
With the drafting of Bill Walton, playing alongside stars Sidney Wicks and Lionel Hollins(now head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies), along with his injury, Petrie' numbers started to sharply decline in his fifth and sixth seasons with the Blazers.
The Blazers and Geoff Petrie were unable to come to an agreement on a new contract, and at the end of the 1975-76 season, traded Petrie to the Atlanta Hawks, along with Steve Hawes for the 2nd overall pick in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft. Glickman recalled: "We were unable to sign Geoff Petrie to a new contract. We had been negotiating with Petrie and his agent, Larry Fleisher, for the better part of a year, but we finally reached an impasse." At the time, the local media and many fans were not thrilled with the move, as Petrie was one of the more popular Blazers (in no small part because of his scoring flair).
The Blazers selected future NBA All-star Maurice Lucas, the Enforcer, with the pick.
Petrie ended up retiring from the game of basketball; his only professional jersey was his #45 Blazers jersey. Over the next 12 months, he would have 3 surgeries on his left knee.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Blazers would be experiencing immediate success; pairing Lucas with Walton, under newly hired head coach Jack Ramsey, the Blazers would win our only championship the following season.
"In fact, 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)
Sadly, for the next few years, Petrie was lost. "I missed my prime, and there were times when I thought: This just isn’t right." said Petrie. He attempted starting several businesses, and even coached a season at Willamette College, but something was missing.
When asked how great he could have been, if he had never had his injured left knee: "That’s not for me to judge, I guess. I was frustrated and was not prepared to stop playing at age 28. It was a difficult time, but the flip side is that I got to start for six years and play a lot when I was healthy. I wish we could have had a little more team success, but I had some individual success. Some of my knee injuries probably went all the way back to 9th grade football. I moved on but would not trade those six years for anything."
On Oct. 11, 1981, the Portland Trailblazers retired his number 45.
I'm sure there are many who can see his parallels with Brandon Roy: NBA Rookie of the Year, dominating shooting guard, 6 great seasons with the Blazers, mutiple time All-star, horrible knees impacting their last few seasons, and ultimately being doomed by their injured knees.
In 1985, the Blazers hired Petrie, where he served various roles, including color commentator alongside Bill Schonely, and shooting coach for several seasons. In 1989, the Blazers hired him into the front office, where he worked as VP of basketball operations.
Over the next few years, he would once again be paired up with his backcourt mate Rick Adelman, Blazers head coach. Together once again, the Blazers made it to 3 consecutive Western Conference Championships, and 2 NBA Finals, but a Championship again eluded them.
In 1992, the Blazers hired Geoff Petrie to be GM, but he resigned following the 1993-94 season. His notable GM moves during his time as GM: trading Robert Pack for a 2nd round pick, trading Kevin Duckworth for Harvey Grant, drafting James Robinson with the 23rd overall pick in 1993, and trading Mario Ellie for a 2nd round pick.
However, shortly after he left employment with the Blazers front office, the Sacramento Kings hired him as GM.
Since June 1, 1994, Geoff Petrie has been President and GM of the Sacramento Kings.
With the Kings, he has put up an impressive resume of draft selections; arguably the greatest first round drafter of all current General Managers.
For reference, his draft history with the Sacramento Kings:
1994: Selected Brian Grant (1st round, 8th pick).
1995: Selected Corliss Williamson (1st round, 13th pick).
1996: Selected Peja Stojakovic (1st round, 14th pick).
1997: Selected Tariq Abdul-Wahad (1st round, 11th pick).
1998: Selected Jason Williams (1st round, 7th pick).
1999: No 1st round pick.
2000: Selected Hedo Turkoglu (1st round, 16th pick).
2001: Selected Gerald Wallace (1st round, 25th pick).
2002: Selected Dan Dickau (1st round, 28th pick). [Picked for the Hawks, as part of draft day trade.]
2003: No 1st round pick.
2004: Selected Kevin Martin (1st round, 26th pick).
2005: Selected Francisco Garcia (1st round, 23rd pick).
2006: Selected Quincy Douby (1st round, 19th pick).
2007: Selected Spencer Hawes (1st round, 10th pick).
2008: Selected Jason Thompson (1st round, 12th pick).
2010: Selected DeMarcus Cousins (1st round, 5th pick).
2011: Selected Bismack Biyombo (1st round, 7th pick). [Picked for Charlotte, as part of draft day trade.]
2012: Selected Thomas Robinson (1st round, 5th pick).
In both the 1998-99 and 2000-2001 seasons, Geoff Petrie was awarded NBA Executive of the Year.
He would once again be paired up with his backcourt mate Rick Adelman, when Petrie hired Adelman to be head coach of the Sacramento Kings from 1998-2006. This pairing once again led to significant success, with the Kings never missing the playoffs in those 8 years, winning 4 consecutive first round series, and making it to the Western Conference Finals once. But, as with the pairing during the Drexler led Championship runs, success was always present, but the ultimate prize continued to elude them.
With the pending sale of the Sacramento Kings, and the return of Geoff Petrie back to the Northwest, we should pay homage to the First Trailblazer.