The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.
No. 94 | Audie Norris
Games Played with Blazers: 187 Regular Season | 20 Postseason
*PTS: 4.4 | REB: 3.1 | ORB: 1.1 | FG%: 51.1
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: Drafted 37th overall in the 1982 NBA Draft
Departed Club: Retired from the NBA in 1985
Place in History: Audie Norris is one of the few homegrown, stayed-forever Portland Trail Blazers on this list. The Jackson State alum stood 6’9, weighed at least 230, and was a serious hunk of pivot. In an era where 7’0 was the aspiration for men in the middle, Norris threw his weight around unabashedly, backing down from nobody, earning the nickname “Atomic Dog” with his snarling energy. His game was seldom beautiful, only occasionally meaningful, but he was the shot of adrenaline an otherwise smooth-and-polished Portland lineup needed.
Size and eagerness alone would not have been enough to boost Norris onto this list. His moment came in the first round of the 1985 NBA Playoffs as the Blazers faced the Dallas Mavericks. The Blazers were perpetual playoffs participants, but had not gotten past the first round since the won the title in 1977. Dallas boasted Rolando Blackman, Mark Aguirre, and Jay Vincent, a trio of big scorers, all the antithesis of Norris. They had Derek Harper, Dale Ellis, and Brad Davis as well. They were, to put it mildly, dangerous.
Portland held a 2-1 lead in the series headed into Game 4 in Portland. Aguirre was on fire that night, scoring 39 on 65% shooting to will his team to the victory needed to extend the series and take it back to Dallas for the decisive match.
With 26 seconds remaining, Norris had the ball at the top of the key, dribbling, likely looking to set up billion-point-scorer Kiki Vandeweghe. This was not the Atomic Dog’s yard. But Dallas overplayed Vandeweghe and Norris was left with no option but to dribble drive. He got to the rim against rookie Wallace Bryant, used his body to make contact, then laid a sweet extended flip shot softly off the glass for two. Back then, even big guys had touch.
Still, it wasn’t enough. Dallas had the score tied with one possession left, Portland’s ball. The play featured Clyde Drexler driving, a much better option off the bounce than Norris. Drexler penetrated, but couldn’t shake the defense for the winning shot. With the clock ticking like a tyrant, Clyde took the only option he had: dishing the ball to Norris along the baseline for a semi-covered 10-footer. As every analytics guru in the industry prepared to gouge their eyeballs out with Bic pens, Norris rose, launched, and then this...
The celebration afterwards from Norris and his teammates was all you need to know about the Dog’s place in Blazers lore. Portland has had better moments, but few purer. It’s plenty good enough for 94 on our Top 100 List.
Discuss your memories or observations of Audie Norris below, and check back multiple times every weekday as we continue to countdown to No. 1.