clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Roundtable: Who Was Your Very First "Favorite Blazer"?

New, comments

A panel of Blazer's Edge writers look back, to discuss which Portland Trail Blazers players were their favorite.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the Trail Blazers' storied 44 years in the NBA, the franchise's rosters have been comprised of fan-favorites and "not-so-fan-favorites." Following the roundtable in which members of the panel wrote about their least favorite player, members of this week's panel will discuss the first time they had a "Favorite Blazer". Don't forget to tell us your very first favorite in the comments below!

----------

Timmay! | @BedgeTimmay

My first favorite Blazer is an easy call: Jim Paxson.

The early 80s were a wasteland for Blazer fans. Everyone thought the team was on the verge of being a dynasty, then had the rug yanked out from under them. Instead they watched a player the Blazers wanted (Larry Bird) form one half of a dynasty in Boston to battle the other dynasty in Los Angeles. The 1977 championship team was completely dismantled in short order. But the good news is that team didn't become immediately terrible, like the 1999 Chicago Bulls. Instead, management creatively rebuilt the team around players like Kermit Washington, Mychal Thompson, Darnell Valentine, Kelvin Ransey and Billy Ray Bates.

The Blazers drafted Paxson with the 12th pick in the 1979 draft. For perspective, the picks chosen around him were Roy Hamilton, Dudley Bradley, Brad Holland, and Cliff "No, Not That Guy" Robinson. The next pick who made an All-Star game was Bill Laimbeer at pick 65 in the third round. Paxson struggled in his rookie year as he tried to learn the NBA style of play. But coach Jack Ramsay displayed plenty of patience and guidance, and turned Paxson into a star in Portland, with multiple All-Star appearances. He could hit the outside shot, move away from the ball, fill the lanes on the break, and could play passing lanes for steals.

For a period where the Blazers were trying to recover from disaster, Billy Ray Bates was the original great hope, but he was simply too unreliable. Paxson represented an All-Star quality player who was also grounded and popular, and helped lead the Blazers to two second round appearances. Imagine Rudy Fernandez stayed in Portland and made a couple All-Star games, helped lead us to two playoff series victories. Imagine how popular he would have become. That was Jim Paxson in the early 80s. He was an easy choice to be my favorite player, to the point that I was frustrated that the Blazers drafted some Drexler guy when Paxson was in his prime! I think that all worked out ok in the end though.

----------

Sam Tongue | @SamTongue

I bet I'm the only one with this answer... but my first "favorite" Trail Blazer was Smitty himself, Steve Smith. I know it's completely unconventional and the guy only played two seasons in Portland, but he did it during the height of the team in the early 2000's. I was a raised a Blazer fan, but that was the era that I really started to understand and become passionate about the game and team.

I really don't know what made me so drawn to the guy. Maybe it was the stuffed Blazer toy I got when I went to a game when I was young. Maybe it was how good a three point shooter he was, and how I played much the same way when I was younger. Maybe it was just the fact that he mostly kept his mouth shut and wasn't near the complainer that Rasheed Wallace and company were. Whatever it was (and it was likely a combination of the three), I loved it -- to the point that I memorized his ridiculously long free throw routine (that's dedication!).

Smitty was a guy that seemed like one of the overall good guys of an era with a lot of bad ones. Seeing him on NBA TV is still cool to this day.

----------

Chris Lucia | @ChrisLucia_BE

When I was really young, my favorite player was Jerome Kersey. Later on, it became Rasheed Wallace and eventually Brandon Roy.

All-time favorite Blazer, though? I think I'm gonna have to go with 'Sheed, and I'll echo everything Evans said about him. And, as a couple of us on staff were chatting about recently, who was better at providing soundbytes than Wallace? You have his "CTC" quote, "Both teams played hard" and, of course, "BALL DON'T LIE!"

Plus, the guy hosted his own radio show on Jammin' 95.5 FM in Portland back in the day. I know he gets a bad rap -- and sometimes deservedly so -- but I kind of miss having Wallace around.

----------

Ryan A. Chase

I lived in Chicago and Denver for most of my life. In Chicago everyone was about His Airness, and rightfully so (though my favorite Bull was always Luc Longley). In Denver, fans adored Dikembe Mutombo, and then Antonio "Slice" McDyess when Mutombo left.

When I got to Portland, the team was buried in the Jail Blazers era. While they made the playoffs, Dallas knocked them out in the first round, four games to three. As the news continued to paint a negative picture of the team and their colorful behavior, my favorite player became Arvydas Sabonis.

He was a center who passed as well as most point guards, a novel concept in my head. He could score, he could bring down whatever boards Rasheed Wallace did not devour, and he setup his teammates in a way that centers just did not do. He had a three-point touch, but could score easily around the rim. He was unselfish, working with teammates whose temper threw the game out of balance, and never found himself in legal trouble.

Sadly, my first year in Portland was his last. It is sad that the issues the NBA had with his Russian club (and vice-versa) prevented him from seeing more play in the Rose City.

Eventually, I cheered most for Brandon Roy when he arrived four years later, but Sabonis was my first favorite Blazer.

----------

Scott Horlbeck | @scott_horlbeck

A buddy of mine once saw Ha-Seung-jin at a Benihana's but I'm going with Rudy Fernandez for helping me make college a little less fun for all my Blazer friends. THREE GOGGLES!!!

----------

Evans Clinchy | @evansclinchy

In June 2010, I was covering the NBA Finals between the Celtics and Lakers, and a funny thing happened one afternoon as I was milling around a practice attending player media availabilities. Someone asked Rasheed Wallace if he could talk about the importance of home-court advantage - a really boring stock question intended to fish for a really boring stock quote that would fill space in a really boring stock article - and Wallace refused to take the bait.

"Nah," he said, as I can still remember vividly four years later. "We could play on Jupiter, and it still really wouldn't matter."

There was something about the way Sheed gave that non-answer that I just loved. "We could play on Jupiter" remains my favorite sound bite I've ever heard in an NBA press conference, and I think it was because it summed up Sheed's persona perfectly. He did not care for your cliches. He had no interest in playing the game your way. Your media tropes and your expectations and your conventional wisdom didn't matter one bit. Sheed was going to be his own man, and it didn't matter if you got that quote for your game preview story.

It's why Sheed is my favorite ex-Blazer, or ex-Celtic, or ex-Piston, or ex-guy who played on the Knicks for about three months and rarely entered a game but could occasionally be heard shouting "ball don't lie!" from the end of the bench. Sheed played his own way. He did his own thing. That might have included a lot of bad shots, and technical fouls, and many other questionable decisions both on the basketball court and off it, but in that uniquely Sheedian way, his independent streak was something you couldn't help but kinda sorta admire a little bit.

In Portland, Sheed represents a proud era in franchise history. Those Blazer teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s were an eclectic group of unpredictable youngsters (Jermaine O'Neal, Damon Stoudamire) and respected veterans (Arvydas Sabonis, Scottie Pippen). They had a great deal of talent, and personality to boot. But you just can't help but think of Sheed as the icon of those teams. His swagger and his attitude were unforgettable, and his play on both ends of the floor wasn't too shabby either. That guy was too much, man. I miss him.

----------

Willy Raedy

In typical kid fashion, my reasons for picking my favorite Blazer had very little to do with the actual game. I was walking around the Rose Garden concourse with my dad and saw a bunch of basketballs lined up in a row along the far wall. Each one had a strange black mark I couldn’t make out. I got closer and realized they were hand prints and went up to the one with a weird name I couldn’t pronounce.

The image of my hand, fingers included, fitting well inside Arvydas Sabonis’ palm is etched in my brain. I think it’s the first time I realized how big people could be. I was too young to really appreciate his game but old enough to understand behind the back passes were cool.

Looking back and seeing film of a young Sabonis (Dane Carbaugh shout out!) running circles around David Robinson it’s hard not to wonder what could have been. The man could make an eleven year old kid wide eyed with nothing more than his hand print. Who knows what he could have done with ten full years in the league.

----------

Sagar Trika | @BlazersBySagar

Here's the precursor to my answer: I didn't discover the joy that is the Trail Blazers until 2008, which means I obviously haven't watched nearly as much ball as other writers on the panel. That being said, my choice(s) will tend to be and more recent than the other writers' choices.

When I was thinking about who to pick, I factored in both what each player did/does on the court as well as their off court life (e.g. Did he get into legal issues being arrested? How was his personality in the locker room?).

The first person that came to mind under the above criteria was none other than Damian Lillard. The guy is mesmerizing on the court and is also great off the court. He is constantly giving back to communities and loves to interact with his fans. In short, he's a class act.

Regardless, the argument can also be made for lots of other players on today's roster. Robin Lopez's contribution to the team's success coupled with his personality off the court also makes him a favorite. I'm sure Wesley Matthews' work ethic and willingness to do the dirty work others won't do makes him a fan favorite, and he's also one of mine. And who can forget Will "the Thrill" Barton? He is, after all, the Peoples' Champ.

Going back a few years, I adored Brandon Roy. The guy had a clutch gene and was fun to watch. Marcus Camby, while not the most-loved by Blazers fans, was also a great fit on the team. His lob passes to LaMarcus Aldridge were always fun to watch and he provided the leadership in the locker room that the team needed.

While all these players were fan favorites, I'm going to stick with my gut and say Damian Lillard is my favorite Blazer for the reasons I mentioned above. The guy loves his fans, loves the city, and he is just a "baller."

----------

Readers of Blazer's Edge, who is your very first "Favorite Blazer"? Tell us below in the comments.

Do you agree with any of our writrers? Vote in the poll and let us know!