On June 5th, 1977, the Portland Trail Blazers made history by winning their only NBA championship to date. It was their first trip to the playoffs since their inception in 1970. Bill Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers took on Dr. J and the Philadelphia 76ers for all the marbles at home in game 6. The Memorial Coliseum was packed (the Rose Garden opened in 1995) and the eyes of a nation were fixed on the titanic clash.
The Blazers were headed by point guard Lionel Hollins (current coach of the Memphis Grizzlies), shooting guard Johnny Davis (current assistant coach of the Toronto Raptors), small forward Bob Gross (who’s jersey hangs in the Rose Garden rafters), power forward Maurice ‘The Enforcer’ Lucas (who’s annual award is named in his memory), and center Bill Walton (Hall of Famer, and current Pac-12 analyst)- all of whom scored in double digits that game.
Keeping the Sixers at bay was no easy task, as Dr. J exploded for 40 points, but in the end the Blazers’ team-based basketball won out. The game came right down to the wire (109-107). Portland led late in the 4th, but Philadelphia would have a chance to tie when George McGinnis forced a jump ball. With 16 seconds remaining, Mcginnis won the tip and Dr. J released a textbook jumper from the freethrow line, missing long. After a Portland deflection and an inbound pass, McGinnis would have another chance with 5 seconds left, but missed when pressured by Maurice Lucas.
Davis rebounded the ball and sprinted down court, met by a ferocious hug from Maurice Lucas, and a roar of jubilation from Blazer fans on their feet as time expired. The rest is history. Though my birth would come years after this game, my heart still swells with pride at the footage. This is the team my father watched, and they laid the foundation for generations of fans to come.
Today, we sit with patience as the Blazers prepare to make it back to the NBA Finals one day. Though the playoffs have eluded the Blazers on-and-off since the days of old, their time is coming once again. Portland’s pride is rising. Unanimous NBA Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, received the Maurice Lucas award this season for best representing The Enforcer’s tenacious spirit. The past lives on in the present, fanning the flames of the future, and the future is bright.