This summer, the Portland Trail Blazers will celebrate the 45th anniversary of their 1977 championship, the only title in franchise history.
However, that championship might not have been possible without the heroics of guard Herm Gilliam in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, which took place on this day, Mother’s Day, in 1977.
Gilliam, an eight-year NBA veteran, was traded to Portland earlier that season from the Seattle SuperSonics but didn’t get a whole lot of playing time at the start of the season. Despite being offered to be sent in another trade to the New Orleans Jazz to get more playing time, Gilliam preferred to stay in Portland to give himself a shot at his first championship.
The veteran’s playing time increased as the season went along, and no game was more important than Game 2 against the Lakers. The Blazers were looking to go up 2-0 and head back to Portland, but the Lakers led 77-70 going into the fourth quarter before Gilliam took over.
Gilliam scored 28 points shooting 12 of 18 from the field as the Blazers retook the lead and won Game 2. They went on to sweep the Lakers in the Conference Finals before advancing to the 1977 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, where the Blazers were victorious in six games.
Gilliam got his ring and retired on top, never playing a game after the 1977 NBA Finals.
After retiring at the age of 31, Gilliam stayed in Oregon and worked for UPS for 15 years. He passed away in 2005 due to a heart attack. He was 58 years old.