NCAA March Madness is just around the corner. In homage to the great annual event we’re running a Portland Trail Blazers bracket here at Blazer’s Edge this month. After whittling down a bracket of 16 players, including almost all of the franchise greats, we’re finally down to the final pairing. Time to vote for the one Trail Blazers player you’d bring back for a year to see them play again, either from fondness or to help the current squad achieve greatness.
The original idea came from an article from Dia Miller and Dave Deckard, detailing the Blazers they’d most like to see one more time. The piece was fun and well-received, so we’re making a bracket of 16 candidates and letting you vote for your favorites. Eventually we’ll see which player you’d most like to bring back for one more go.
Here are the conventions:
- We’re not including Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler, since everyone should want them back for overwhelming talent and impact purposes. They count as, “Anytime, Anywhere” legends.
- You can vote in the comments or on Twitter @blazersedge. We won’t get as many votes that way as if we just opened a poll, but the discussion is important as well.
- You don’t necessarily have to consider the current roster or the state of the team as you make your choices, but you can. You’re voting for the player you’d most love to see suit up for one more season. The qualities/memories of that individual player are the most important things. Helping the current team is a bonus which can weigh in your decision, but doesn’t have to.
- Sadly, we’ve lost some of the players on this list. We remember them with honor and thank their families for sharing them with us through basketball so we could appreciate and remember them.
- Go ahead and envision the best Blazers version of each player. That’s part of the fun!
As expected, our final matchup features two titans from history, each with powerful arguments on their side. Both are well-able to weather the reality that the team has changed since the first three rounds of this tournament ran. The Blazers have different needs right now than they did three weeks ago. But either of these stars would help any team in any era. It’s up to you to choose your favorite.
Arvydas Sabonis won his first-round matchup with Billy Ray Bates handily, squeaked by franchise legend Maurice Lucas in the second round, then bulled past beloved guard Drazen Petrovic in the semi-finals to reach the ultimate round. A mountainous center with point-guard skills and a legendary reputation, Sabas will be hard to unseat.
No player outside of first-overall draft picks created more stir upon his arrival in Portland than 7’3 Lithuanian center Arvydas Sabonis. His exploits with the Soviet National Team throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s were legendary. He destroyed all opposition behind the Iron Curtain, and most of it in the Spanish pro league, emerging occasionally to lead the Soviets to glory in international competition. He was as big as a mountain, as lithe as a breeze, had huge hands, immaculate footwork, prescient vision, passing ability, and range out to the three-point arc.
Injuries slowed Sabonis and limited his effectiveness well before he joined the Blazers in 1995. Even a hobbled, bulk version was able to accomplish plenty:
Sabas played 470 games for the Blazers, averaging 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 24.2 minutes. His game would translate into any era, including the modern one, especially with his ability to stretch the floor on offense and clog the middle on defense.
Brandon Roy handled shooting superstar Geoff Petrie easily in round one, edged out combo-forward Cliff Robinson in the second round, and emerged ahead of revered forward Jerome Kersey in the semi-finals, a heartache-inducing race. Like Sabonis, Roy’s career was cut short by injuries. Will Portland fans choose the generation-defining shooting guard over the center?
Here’s Roy’s bio:
After being selected 6th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft then being traded to Portland on draft night, Brandon Roy set about building a Rookie of the Year season and a memorable career. Sandwiched between heralded big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, Roy outshone them all. In his first four seasons with the Blazers he averaged 20.2 points per game, shooting 46.7% from the field, earning three NBA All-Star appearances. He had a deceptively-accurate jump shot, spliced through by even-more-deceptively athletic drives to the rim. He was also the original game-finisher before Damian Lillard took over that role in 2012.
Watching Roy glide to the rim is an experience. Watching him hit buzzer beaters is downright ethereal.
Nobody will ever forget Roy scoring 24 points in the fourth period in Game 4 of Portland’s series with the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. He brought his team back from a deep hole against the eventual champions, staking them to an 84-82 victory and keeping them alive for another day.
The Blazers would lose that series, then lose Roy the next season. His knees crumbled, leaving his career as a brief, shining testimony to greatness. Seeing Brandon line up beside Lillard would be a sight in itself, let alone the one-season redemption story for an NBA Great that never had the chance to tell the greatest story with his talent and drive.
The choice is now before you, Blazers fans. Brandon Roy or Arvydas Sabonis. Which player would you invite back, fully-restored to their Trail Blazers greatness, to play one more year with this team. Vote below in the comments!