Thursday afternoon was hot, and although it wasn’t quite Dave Chappelle numbers, a few thousand Blazer fans didn’t seem to mind. We all came to see one guy. Arvydas Sabonis. Most Blazer fans remember Sabas, or Sa Bone Bone as one of my friends used to call him, as being a slow, lurching giant, who could pass better than anybody his size should be able to, and shot line drive threes that always seemed to go in. Old basketball war stories, and to a greater extent YouTube, paint a different picture, one Blazer fans never saw in person.
Arvydas Sabonis was probably one of the best basketball players ever, and although Sabas was an old man when he played in Portland, he did enough with his time in a Blazer uniform to warrant the type of reception he received at Pioneer Square.
The cheering fans seemed to come as a shock to the big Lithuanian who more than once thanked the city for the simple act of remembering who he was. But it should come as no surprise to Blazer fans that we’d remember a hands-down fan favorite, who anchored Portland during one of their best stretches as a franchise.
Furthermore, the collective memory of Blazer fans is so good that when Portland play-by-play man Mike Barrett asked Sabas about games he remembers in the Q&A portion of Thursday’s events, and Arvydas responded almost immediately with “Game seven of the 2000 Western Conference Finals,” all in attendance groaned in unison. We haven’t forgotten what he hasn’t forgotten.
But Thursday was bittersweet too. The fans on the square were a loud and clear indication that this town is once again ready for basketball, and underneath it all was the shared understanding that the next basketball season might be a long time coming. The release of the preseason schedule notwithstanding–a tease if there ever was one, no doubt released on Sabas Day intentionally to avoid the futile exercise of previewing games that more than likely will never be played–Thursday was a far cry from getting back to the business of playing NBA basketball.
Having said that, I never want to be the guy that brings the dark cloud to what was an otherwise sun shiny day. Watch this video and think about what Sabas could have been if he had come over in 1986 when he was drafted and not in 1995 when his days of being one of the best in world were behind him. But while you’re doing that, don’t forget to appreciate what he did with his time as a Blazer.
Follow the jump to see Arvydas Sabonis Day in pictures.
Sabonis and his daughter were escorted from a meet and greet with fans to a stage set up in the middle of the square. His escort included a drum corps and some cops.
Sabas grabbed the mic, clearly impressed with the turnout.
Teammates of Sabonis shared some stories with fans. Here’s Chris Dudley, his back-up.
And Brian Grant his front-court mate.
City Commissioner Randy Leonard announced that August 18th, 2011 will be officially known as Arvydas Sabonis Day.
There were a few choice Sabas throwbacks among those present
And finally, Sabas had his name added to Portland pantheon.
Happy Arvydas Sabonis Day everyone!