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‘He Was My Idol’: What Clyde Drexler Means To Me

We’re sharing our fandom stories at Blazer’s Edge.

Chicago Bulls v Portland Trail Blazers

Here at Blazer’s Edge, we’re taking the opportunity to share our Portland Trail Blazers fandom with our readers. You can read more about it here.

One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting on my grandfather’s lap in the Coliseum. I don’t remember how old I was at the time — I was old enough to cheer for the team, but young enough to be comfortable sharing a stadium seat. My mom recalls taking me to my first game in 1985 when I wasn't even a year old. Portland was never home for me, although it was for the majority of my extended family. My grandparents also called Portland home. They had season tickets for the team, purchased in 1983— the year Clyde Drexler was drafted and played his rookie season, and 2 years before I was born. They held their season tickets until 1995, when Drexler went to the Houston Rockets. You could say I was born into Trail Blazers’ fandom.

While I didn’t grow up in Portland, I did spend most of my childhood in Southern Oregon. Night after night during basketball season we would gather with friends, eating pizza and watching the Trail Blazers games on TV. Some of those friends are no longer with us, and those early memories of watching the games with them are something I hold dear to my heart. That’s the thing about basketball—it has this way of building relationships, of drawing people together.

The voices of greats like Bill Schonley, Brian Wheeler and Mark Mason were my childhood soundtrack. The “Bust a Bucket” cassette tape took up a nearly permanent residence in my tape deck. I would crank it up and dance around the house, singing all the words to the songs (surprisingly, nearly 30 years later I still remember almost all of the words). When most of the girls at my school were covering their walls with boy band posters, a life size poster of Clyde “the Glide” and a Trail Blazers pennant hung on mine.

Inspired by my favorite team, basketball became my sport of choice in first grade when I started playing at the local YMCA. I chose the number 22, because it was the number Drexler wore, and like many children growing up in the area in the 80s and 90s, he was my idol. Even as a little girl, my competitive nature ran deep—a trait I inherited from my dad. He was an athlete, and played basketball as well. When I was still in elementary school, my dad used to take me to the gym with him early in the morning before the sun even dared to show it’s face. He was 6’3” and a skilled shooter. I wasn’t even 4 feet tall, but he treated me as a peer on the court. There were days I’m pretty sure I didn’t even touch the ball. That same competitive nature translated into our living room during the Trail Blazers games when my dad would yell at the TV as I clutched a referee doll in my hands, ripping off it’s velcro limbs and throwing them across the room when a call was made against Portland (That was it’s sole purpose, this doll—to throw it’s arms and legs at the TV when the ref made a bad call. What a time to be alive).

I grew to love the game of basketball, continuing to play through elementary school at the YMCA and then eventually making my Junior High and High School teams. My dad took a job in Los Angeles the summer before my junior year of high school, moving my family 17 hours south into Laker territory. Suddenly I found myself a lone Trail Blazers fan in a sea of gold and purple. My dad slowly became a Laker fan, but I stayed true to my Oregon roots and the Laker fans around me only fueled my fire. I continued to wear Clyde’s number 22, at a school where the students likely fought over the number 24 instead.

College and my early 20s were a somewhat dark time in my life. I found myself in an abusive relationship that consumed my life and stole my identity. I stopped watching the Trail Blazers and missed most of the Brandon Roy era, and a lot of LaMarcus Aldridge. When I finally broke free of that relationship, I was a shell of the person I’d once been. My interests, hobbies, goals and dreams had been shattered, and I had to start the process of rebuilding. Somewhere along the way I turned on a Trail Blazers game. I don’t remember who was playing that night, I couldn’t tell you who was even on the roster, but I clearly remember feeling a sense of peace. In a time of extreme chaos and unknown in my life, the Trail Blazers were my escape.

It didn’t take long to became a casual Blazers fan again. I’d watch games here and there when they were nationally televised, I bought a Trail Blazers t-shirt and then a hat. I didn’t follow the ins and outs of the team, I knew very little about the players outside of who was on the roster. But somehow watching those games was a step toward feeling more like me. When Damian Lillard was drafted, I knew I was witnessing something special.

Life threw me some curveballs over the years, and took some twists and turns. I found myself once again in a place where I needed something more. I needed something that was mine. I reached out to a friend who told me about Blazers Edge and I dove head first into learning everything I could about the team. I went from being a casual fan, to what you see today— a woman who has loved the team since childhood, and whose fandom has grown and evolved and developed over time into a passion, a job, and a way of life.

If you would have told me 3 years ago that I would be writing for the very site that I was constantly scouring for Trail Blazers news, or that I’d be doing a podcast with someone whose work I read and admired as I learned to navigate the complexities of the NBA I wouldn’t have believed you. I couldn’t have dreamed that I’d be doing a podcast with that same person— a podcast with an intro and outro voiced by two of the men I’d grown up hearing as the voice of my team.

What started out as a family tradition of fandom, turned into a comfort in a time of struggle, a distraction in a time of difficulty, a community in a time of loneliness, a passion in a time of self-discovery, and a dream job in a time of trying to figure out what to do with my life. The Trail Blazers started out as the team I was a fan of, but somewhere along the way, they became the thing that feels like home.