On this day, exactly 37 years ago, the Portland Trail Blazers won their first and only NBA championship. June 5, 1977, the Portland Trail Blazers won Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, 109-107. The 1977 team broke through and put Portland on the map.
Through the first six years of the franchise, the Portland Trail Blazers had never been to the playoffs or finished a season with a winning record. Enter Dr. Jack Ramsay. Ramsay joined the Trail Blazers at the start of the 1976-1977 season. He inherited a young team that had drafted a college superstar two years prior.
Bill Walton, the 6′ 11″ center, was part of the UCLA Bruins historic 88-game winning streak. He did not lose a basketball game in which he played for almost five years, his junior year in high school through the middle of his senior year of college. He was the college player of the year. He was the first overall draft pick in 1974 by the Trail Blazers. Yet injuries caused Walton to be ineffective in his first two NBA seasons in Portland. In his third season, Walton was healthy enough to lead the NBA in rebounds and blocks. Add in new coach Ramsay and a great supporting cast and you have one of the great Cinderella stories in professional sports history.
The championship team of 1977 is still the youngest to win an NBA title. They had ten players that were 25 years old or younger. They burst into the playoffs and beat the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, and swept the Los Angeles Lakers to reach their first NBA Finals. The stacked Philadelphia 76ers awaited them.
The 76ers roster had names like Julius Erving, Doug Collins, and Darryl Dawkins. They were the favorite to win the NBA championship. In the sixth game of the 1977 regular season, the Trail Blazers played host to the 76ers. They entered the night a heavy underdog but left the court a 42 point winner. The two teams would meet again in the NBA Finals, with the 76ers winning the first two games. The Portland Trail Blazers came back and won four straight games including a 32 point win in Game 4.
That was a special year for Trail Blazers fans. The team has only reached the NBA Finals twice since (1990 and 1992) and has never won another title. Let’s just take a moment and take it all in again. It feels good doesn’t it. The 2013-2014 Trail Blazers team had an incredible run. They fought with the same spirit I imagine the 1977 team fought with, the “It’s Us Against The World” mentality. The result wasn’t the same but, I for one, am excited about the present and the future of the Portland Trail Blazers.