Legendary Portland Trail Blazers broadcaster Bill Schonely has passed away at the age of 93. The news was shared via Twitter by long-time Portland media personality, and Schonely biographer, Kerry Eggers.
Legendary broadcaster Bill Schonely has died.— Kerry Eggers (@kerryeggers) January 21, 2023
He was 93.
A great friend, a great person.
R.I.P. City, Schonz.#RipCity
The tweet reads:
Legendary broadcaster Bill Schonely has died. He was 93. A great friend, a great person. R.I.P. City, Schonz.
Schonely became the original voice of the Trail Blazers in 1970, joining them for their inaugural NBA season after a career calling Pacific Northwest baseball and hockey games. His melodic delivery and enthusiasm quickly became hallmarks for the growing franchise. He famously coined the term “Rip City”, the rallying cry of the team, and its town, to this day.
In a 2022 interview summarized by Anne Peterson of The Associated Press, Schonely explained the origin of the famous phrase.
His catchphrase, which is now enshrined on one of the team’s uniforms, was born during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Blazers were down by 20-plus points but made a comeback.
He said that Jim Barnett, a former Oregon player who was one of the original Blazers, winked at him before taking a shot just steps inside the midcourt line.
“I was gonna say it ‘Rip the twine’ or something but I came up with ‘Rip City! All right!′ And look what happened,” he said. “It took a little while for that phrase to catch on. I had no idea that all of this was going to happen. But it did, and wherever you go, it’s humbling to me, but it’s ‘Rip City.’”
Schonely called Blazers games on the radio and television from 1970 through 1998, including during Portland’s lone NBA Championship run in 1977. He was released after the 1998 playoffs, but returned in 2003 in an ambassadorial role, which he continued through 2022.
Schonely was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and earned the Curt Gowdy award from the NBA’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
Schonely had been ailing during the last year, including fighting through a bout of COVID-19 along with his wife, Dottie, in 2022.
Eggers chronicled Schonely’s life and legacy in a biography, Wherever You May Be... Now — The Bill Schonely Story, last fall.
Blazer’s Edge offers heartfelt thanks and condolences to Bill Schonely’s family and loved ones. We mourn the loss of a friend and pivotal figure in the development of the Trail Blazers franchise.