The Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” premiered its first two episodes on Sunday. While they may not have been the most revelatory, they were certainly entertaining enough to bring over millions sports-lovers together for two hours. Lord knows I don’t remember the last time I spent two hours on ESPN.
Watching “The Last Dance” led me to an interesting thought experiment: what eras or stories related to the Portland Trail Blazers would make a great documentary one day? Here’s a list of just some stories that might be good enough to grace the small screen at least.
The Jail Blazers
This one feels most obvious to me. This era has the perfect mix of quality basketball and bad boy appeal, with a western conference finals appearance in 2000, a litany of Rasheed Wallace technical fouls, weed related incidents, and even a dog fighting ring. There are so many bonkers stories from this era that just have to be told.
What would make this most interesting, however, is looking back on this era almost 20 years after it all happened. Corbin Smith provided an interesting retrospective for Deadspin just last year after reading. What if the documentary took that kind of perspective to it? Were the Jail Blazers rightfully maligned by their fan base? Or were they unfairly judged for their actions, with their impact on a generation of fans being more significant than how the media portrayed them? Regardless of where you fall, this era is fascinating to look at.
The Breaks of the Game: Documentary Style
For those of you who haven’t read David Halberstam’s “The Breaks of the Game”, stop reading this article and get on it right now. It is not only quite easily the best book about the Portland Trail Blazers, it is, in my opinion, by far and away the best basketball book and arguably the best sports book of all time. Deep-diving into what feels like such a bygone era, an era of basketball where the NBA wasn’t the top thing on everyone’s mind and the Blazers were kings, is an experience any basketball fan should undertake.
But if you’re not feeling the whole reading thing, then it should be up to you to make this era into a documentary. What happened to the Blazers after the championship that made them go haywire? How did the NBA change from an afterthought to one of the biggest organizations in the world? How did the Blazers do Bill Walton dirty in not adequately treating his foot injuries? Will they show a video of the Kermit Washington punch? The Bill Walton stories alone could be worth the price of admission, but only if Walton is the one telling them.
The Brandon Roy Story
Watching a documentary like this might be enough to make certain Blazer fans wince and cry about what could have been. A trio of Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, and LaMarcus Aldridge is something I know I dream about at least once a week, and with Roy as the focal point, it feels like that group would have been unstoppable. The injury bug is the most brutal and unforgiving of all the bugs.
But Roy’s story is interesting beyond the injuries. There’s the game against Dallas in 2011, the appreciation other players (including infamous Portland villain Kobe Bryant) had for his game, his post-playing career as a state championship-winning high school basketball coach, his tragic injury sustained in a shooting three years ago, it’s a story of redemption that any basketball fan would be drawn to. Roy will forever be a Portland legend, and as much as it would hurt to relive the degradation of his knee cartilage, watching him rise back up would be just as phenomenal as his play back in the day.
Okay, this one is really only for the masochists out there; how the heck is Portland just so darn unlucky? How did they end up drafting Sam Bowie and Greg Oden, two highly talented centers who spent more time on the injury list than on the court, instead of two generational talents in Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant? Why did their best player in years in Brandon Roy have to go down with a depressing amount of injuries? Add Bill Walton to that list too. What did Rip City do to deserve this?
The thing is, every NBA team deals with their down years. Every team has a few-year stretch where generally speaking they have struggled for one reason or another. Juggernauts such as the Lakers (ew), the Celtics, the Spurs, and more have had their down periods. But few have had those periods start from tragic circumstances as often as the Blazers. It would be worthwhile to look into just how unlucky a team can be, with Portland as patient zero.
What era do you want to see in a 30 for 30 one day? Tell us in the comments.