The Portland Trail Blazers edition of the Road Trippin’ podcast is only three episodes in, but it’s already had the likes of Wade Baldwin IV, Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard stop by to share stories of struggle and triumph, both on and off the court. For those unfamiliar with the podcast, it started with Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson back in 2016 as two buddies who happened to be NBA players chopping it up.
The podcast grew an intense following, partnered with Uninterrupted, and now has launched a Portland version with Evan Turner and Blazers reporter Brooke Olzendam serving as hosts. This podcast prides itself on telling personal stories of players, allowing a more unfiltered way for fans to connect with players from their favorite teams. Turner describes it perfectly in the very first show:
“A lot of times you get into the NBA and obviously people don’t comprehend, and sometimes media, they might come from writing about lacrosse and they just only care about certain type of stories. But a lot of times it’s important when you get a chance to tell your own story.”
The show’s first three guests (Baldwin, then Nurkic, then Lillard) have been given a more casual medium to tell their own stories, allowing them to open up in ways fans haven’t read elsewhere.
In the first episode, Baldwin touches a lot on his time with the Memphis Grizzlies. He reveals that when he arrived in Memphis, the team told him that he’d have to change his shooting form after being a career 42.3 percent shooter in two seasons at Vanderbilt. He also talks about being mislabeled “uncoachable” just because of his passion. These, along with other factors, are spelled out in a candid discussion about a rough period in his life.
In the second episode, the friendship between Nurkic and Turner is clear. They share that they sit together on the plane, discuss Turner coming to visit Nurkic in Bosnia next summer and joke around about lots of things. Nurkic also details his basketball ascension, which includes a story about how his father getting into a brawl led to the start of Nurkic’s basketball path. No, seriously:
And in the most recent episode, Lillard reflects on his college recruitment, where he went to camp after camp to try and get a big-school offer. But the most touching parts of the pod come when Lillard isn’t talking about basketball at all.
He boasts proudly about finally getting a design of his signature shoe in honor of his mom that will be sold at retail, not just a custom design. And Lillard also tells the origins of his involvement with anti-bullying campaigns. In short (and the long version is worth hearing), back when he was in high school he saw a peer getting unfairly picked on, which sprung Lillard into being the only one to defend the schoolmate — that led to Lillard’s involvement with the Special Olympics and the creation of his RESPECT campaign later on.
Having a Road Trippin’ podcast in Portland should be considered a special thing. Turner and Olzendam have great chemistry as hosts, each bringing their own personality. The way the show’s guests have embraced the open format to talk about their activities, basketball or not, is privileged information fans get to hear.
It’s made me appreciate the players even more as humans as they open up about times of struggle or perseverance in their lives. It’s easy to forget that these are human beings above all else and they aren’t defined by what’s done on the basketball court. The episodes give the listener a sampling of the kind of things that seem to be discussed daily in the locker room — from talk of conspiracy theories to musical interests of the players — which makes it worth checking out for any fan looking to get closer to this team.