Steve "Snapper" Jones left an indelible mark on basketball in Oregon. He was a state champion with Franklin High School. He played for the Oregon Duck and the Portland Trail Blazers. He became a long-time broadcaster for the Blazers and also worked for national networks. Along the way he had great success, made lasting friends and helped many familiar names find their way on the court and in the broadcast booth. Jones died surrounded by family on November 25th after a long period of declining health.
In a recent article Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune reviewed Snapper’s life in basketball with plenty of quotes from those who he impacted along the way.
Jones played all but one year of his professional career in the ABA. The last ABA team he played for was the St. Louis Spirits — who just happened to have a play-by-play man named Bob Costas. Costas remembers:
"Steve was an ABA original who played in the league in eight of its nine years," Costas says. "I'm still in touch with many of the players from the Spirits, and Steve was one of my very closest friends on the team."
The 6-5 Jones, says Costas, "had a terrific outside shot, but he was also big and strong enough that he could back a guy down and hit that turnaround.”
Jones did play one year in the NBA with the Blazers, the year before their lone championship. It’s possible that the biggest impact he had on the Blazers during that year was off the court. Eggers and Bill Walton explain:
Walton, already beset by injuries, was discouraged.
"Steve saved my career," Walton said during a three-minute tribute while serving as TV analyst for the recent Arkansas-Connecticut game at the PK80 Invitational at Moda Center. "I was going to quit basketball. We took a drive to Kah-Nee-Ta,… and sat in the hot springs. He said, 'Faith and patience. It will get better, little Billy."
Walton called Jones "my great friend … one of the finest human beings I have ever known. An incredible spirit; an incredible soul.
Snapper is best known for his work behind the microphone. He was a colleague of a who’s who list of Blazer broadcasters: Bill Schonely, Mike Barrett and Mike Rice to name just a few. Barrett talks about how Snapper helped him along the way:
"Every conversation I had with Steve, I always learned something," Barrett says. "He had a very deliberate way of giving you advice and his opinion on all things basketball. I came away from each conversation totally fulfilled.
"I owe Steve a lot. When the Blazers' play-by-play job came open, I'd been doing WNBA for a couple of years. He came in and asked, 'Are you ready for this?' He helped give me confidence in being able to do that job. I remember after one talk he said, 'That's the kind of confident guy I wanted to hear from.' He went a long way in helping me get that job. He would never admit that, but I think he did. I'll always be indebted to him for that."•
Kerry Eggers has many more quotes and reminisces from a host of people who’s life Snapper touched. Give the full article a read, respecting and remembering a legendary figure in Oregon basketball.