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Bill Schonely: A Living Legend Looks To Step Away

The originator of Rip City reflects on a 50-year career.

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Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony - Bunn-Gowdy Awards Dinner Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

No non-player is perhaps more associated with the Portland Trail Blazers than broadcaster Bill Schonely, who notably originated the phrase “Rip City,” one that has stuck with us all of these years and is now used to describe the passionate community that surrounds the team. In a recent interview with Jason Quick of the Athletic, Schonely reflected on a 50-year career with the franchise, including 30 years as a broadcaster and 20 as a team ambassador. And yet, Schonely is looking beyond the Trail Blazers for the first time in years.

“I’m coming up on 93 and it’s about time, you know?” Schonely said. “I don’t know if they want an old man around anymore. I don’t know what I can do. I see the clients as much as I can, but I’m not active like I used to be. So, one of these days I’m going to pull the plug. I’m going to retire. At some point. I don’t want to.”

Due to the flurry of trades, Schonely says he doesn’t know the current players.

“I have no idea who is playing now. I don’t!” Schonely said incredulously. “Somebody is either hurt or traded. I thought the other day: They are going to trade me! …. For who?”

People still ask him about the Blazers wherever he goes.

“Even with my mask on,” he says. “I get it everywhere I go … I’m at the grocery store, and it’s ‘Hey, Schonz! What’s going on with the Blazers?’ And right now, I don’t know what to say,” Schonely said. “It’s very, very disappointing.”

Despite Schonely’s doubts about the Blazers’ desire to keep him around, the team has made their position clear.

“The Trail Blazers will always have a place for Bill, who has provided invaluable moments and memories as the father of Rip City for over half a century,” president Dewayne Hankins said.

So no matter what Schonely decides to do when his ambassador contract comes up this spring, he will always be part of our community.

You can read Quick’s piece, which covers the entirety of Schonely’s lengthy career, here (subscription required).