Shortly before the beginning of the 2009-10 season, the Trail Blazers held a press conference to announce several ways in which they planned to commemorate the team’s upcoming 40th-anniversary season. And while things like having Bill Schonley call part of a preseason game in the Memorial Coliseum and the introduction of the “Rip City” alternate jerseys received a great deal of attention throughout the Blazer blogosphere, lost in the shuffle at the time was the announcement that a commemorative coffee-table tome would be released sometime in the future. Well, that book arrived this November through Insight Editions, and I can unequivocally say that Wayne Thompson’s Blazermania: This is Our Story was worth the wait.
I didn’t start actually reading this book until about a week after I got it, but even before then, I always seemed to find myself killing time flipping through it. Even if there were no text in this book, it would be worth buying for the photos. There are pictures in here that span from the press conference announcing that Portland was getting an NBA franchise all the way to the team’s first-round playoff loss to Phoenix this past April. These photos range from iconic (there are shots of Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas celebrating after winning the championship in 1977) to obscure (all manner of photos of players in the locker room and on the plane). The book may be officially sanctioned by the team, but I don’t get the impression that it glosses over anything that makes these players appear human. Anyone who enjoys good basketball photography, or good photography in general, will be in heaven.
All of this, of course, is before we even get to the book Thompson has written. The team’s first Oregonian beat writer has long been one of the most important figures in Blazer lore, and the tour he gives us of this franchise’s history is both pleasantly anecdotal in tone and taking full advantage of the fact that it was written by someone with more or less unfiltered access to the team and players for years. Every major period in the Blazers’ development and every important player is touched on, and I didn’t find myself thinking anyone was shafted in Thompson’s narrative. Even the Bob Whitsitt years, a prime candidate for glossing over in an official book, are given their fair share of burn. Thompson is one of the most distinguished newspaper sportswriters you could name, but he doesn’t get showy with the writing. Everything is presented in an entertaining and, most importantly, readable manner, ensuring that this book will be enjoyable for both hardcore and casual fans.
A special mention should also be given to the extra goodies that come enclosed in the book, which should be treats for all fans. There’s a copy of the score sheet from the title-clinching Game 6 of the 1977 NBA finals, some cutout trading cards, and a copy of radio announcer Brian Wheeler’s game notes from Brandon Roy’s 52-point game against the Suns in 2008. Even if you know everything in the book (which you don’t) and already have all the photos (ditto), these are unique additions to anyone’s collection.
If this review sounds like an advertisement for Blazermania, it’s because I honestly cannot find any faults with it. I’ve tried to come up with criticisms, and I’ve got nothing. It’s well-written, informative, the photos are often revelatory, and it looks great on a coffee table. (Dave Deckard joked in his review of the book on Blazersedge that it’s big enough to be a coffee table, and while that could technically be true, I don’t really want to take my chances that my coffee table could need microfracture surgery. What, too soon?) The bottom line is this: there is no Blazers fan, no matter how rabid or casual, who wouldn’t love to have this in their collection. And with Christmas only two weeks away, if you need ideas for gifts for Blazers fanatics, this book is as close to a can’t-miss as it gets.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that the book’s publisher, Insight Editions, was kind enough to send me a review copy of Blazermania. However, had this not been the case, I would have undoubtedly bought a copy. It’s that good.