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. 54 | Theo Ratliff
Games Played with Blazers: 150 Regular Season, 0 Postseason
*PTS: 5.4 | REB: 5.6 | BLK: 2.6 | FG%: 51.1
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: February 2004, acquired from the Atlanta Hawks with Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Dan Dickau for Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person
Departed Club: June 2006, traded to the Boston Celtics with Sebastian Telfair for Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau, and Randy Foye
Place in History: Midway through the 2003-04 season, the Portland Trail Blazers were in disarray. Franchise superstar Rasheed Wallace was an impending free agent and didn’t care who knew it. He was making so much noise that it was obvious he was leaving town one way or another. The Blazers had to deal him:
A. Because it made sense.
B. Because another half-season of Sheed’s “Both Teams Played Hard/CTC” quotes would have been intolerable, ripping apart what was left of the franchise’s already-tattered morale.
Forced to make a mid-season deal when they would have preferred, under normal circumstances, to retain the player they were moving, the Blazers were stuck throwing spaghetti against the wall, trying to see what would stick.
As it turns out, the pasta never hit the wall to begin with. Theo Ratliff swatted it into oblivion.
Ratliff was 30 when he joined the Blazers, with three teams, 8.5 seasons, and one All-Star appearance under his belt. He wasn’t a franchise-defining center. He wasn’t going to turn around the team’s fortunes, nor would he bring order to the chaos. Ratliff did one thing better than anybody else in the league: he blocked shots.
He would block them at the rim
And every place inside the gym
He would block them here and there
He would block them anywhere
He would block them in the rain
He would block them on a train
He would block them in a box
He would block them like a fox
He would block you in the trees
He would block you trying threes
You will not shoot that, Sam-I-Am
Here comes Theo...clocked it... Damn!
He averaged 3.6 blocks per game the season he joined the Blazers, 4.4 blocks per game in a Portland uniform that year. At some point opponents started wondering if they should attempt the layup or just hand the ball to Ratliff and be done with it.
Let’s put this into perspective. Mychal Thompson is Portland’s franchise leader in blocked shots with 768, accumulated over 551 games. If Theo had played that many games with the same blocked shot averages he had during his stay in Portland, he’d have accumulated 1,424.
Portland’s defense wasn’t anything to write home about at the time, the guards had their fair share of “credit” for that. They were...permissive when it came to penetration. But that weakness gave more opportunity for Ratliff to swat shots to kingdom come. He became like a kid in a candy store, and ooh was it fun to watch.
Outside of the blocks, Ratliff was fairly average as a center. His 51% clip from the field was fine. His rebounds were a little slight, as was his frame. His individual, one-on-one defense wasn’t special. Injuries would limit his play as well. But Ratliff knew what he was good at, and he did it whether the weather was clear or stormy around him.
For that, Theo Ratliff earns the 54th spot in our Top 100 List of Trail Blazers players and influencers.
Share your memories of Theo Ratliff below, and stick with us as we work our way towards #1!