Last Thursday over on Blazer's Edge
Last Thursday over on Blazer's Edge
Last Thursday over on Blazer's Edge

The Not-So-Golden Era’s…

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Last Thursday over on Blazer’s Edge, Dave created an interesting discussion by asking which Blazer team/era was the greatest. There is no doubt in my mind that when you think of great Blazer eras as a fan, three time periods distinctly stick out.

76-78, 89-92, 99-01.

Those are the three “Golden Era’s” of Blazer Basketball if you will. If you asked me to rank them, I’d more than likely leave them in that order. And I’d probably advise you to leave it in that order as well. Despite the fact that I was not alive, that 77 Blazers team is bar none the greatest Blazer team of all-time. For one, they are the only ones to actually win the NBA Championship. Can’t argue with that. Secondly, from the footage I have seen and everything I have read…they just played incredible basketball. That Blazer team rose from the ashes of mediocrity and just played incredible team basketball to win that championship. Nobody expected them to win. And not only did that style of play breed a championship, it created Blazermania. Whenever I hear the phrase Blazermania, I think of that picture of the championship parade with the city of Portland just flooded with humanity.

Next I’d have to put the Rip City era. I would call it the Adelman Era but his last couple years were great but borderline messy if you consider what happened after. Simply put, if this team had been able to win a title they would have been the greatest Blazer team of all time. Three tremendous years that have not been matched in Blazer history. In one of the tougher Western Conferences in league history (until recently), this team remained consistently great. 179 wins in three seasons (do the math). The best record in the West two out of those three years. One loss in the Western Conference Finals and two visits to the NBA Finals. “Bust A Bucket” and “Rip City Rhapsody”. Clyde, Buck, Duck, Jerome and Terry. Not only that but this team exemplified Rip City. When everyone was screaming and hollering during the ‘Jail Blazer’ era, it’s because they wanted this team back. This era not only won but they were just great people. A great team to say the least…even though I slept through 60% of the games. I was little cut me some slack.

Last I’d have to put the 99-01 era. Probably some of the deepest Blazer teams from top to bottom appeared during this era. My personal favorite as I lived and died with them during my “sports matters way too much” phase, as opposed to not being concepted (77’s) and sleeping through games in my mother’s arms (89-92). However…its hard to look back on the teams during this era. Sure they won, but they were directly brought together to win. And not only that but they caused some devastating moments and led to a devastating era.

Which leads me to the real point of this post. All three of these teams have two things in common. The first is success. Without a doubt, these teams are remembered because they won. What else do they have in common? A downfall, a horrid spiral, a hangover if you will. All were heartbreaking. That 76-77 team was supposed to be a dynasty. Dynasty. And the next season they were well on their way starting the season 50-10. 50-10. But then Bill Walton went down and the rest is history. Walton never recovered and ended up sitting out the next season in protest. As a result the rest of the team crumbled.

89-92?? Three great years, zero titles. Two trips to the NBA Finals, one year being the best team in the league and no titles. For a newer fan, the best I could compare it to is Phoenix’s run from 2004 to 2007. Except worse. There were some painful losses too. Stealing Game 2 of the 90 NBA Finals in Detroit only to lose three straight in the Memorial Coliseum (thanks Vinnie Johnson). Cruising through the 90-91 season on a mission, winning 63 games, best record in the league…only to drop Game 1 of the Conference Finals at home against the Lakers and never recover. Try and watch this. I’ll never forget Magic jumping up and down in slow motion. Stealing Game 2 of the 92 NBA Finals from Jordan and the Bulls, then dropping 2 of 3 games at home only to rise up in Game 6 in Chicago, take a 15 point lead into the fourth quarter and watch Bobby Hansen spark a run?

(Although honestly at the age of 5 I was very conflicted between my heroes and my hero MJ. I was not a happy camper.)

99-01…come on. You know the score. Memorial Day Miracle. Game 7 Collapse. That underrated painful sweep the Lakers gave us in the First Round of the 01 Playoffs. Nothing else needs to be said.

It got me to thinking about the aftermath’s of these golden era’s. The Not-So-Golden Era’s. And there is a reason why I called them Not-So-Golden instead of Dark eras. Honestly…how on earth can a franchise who made it to the playoffs 17 years in a row have dark eras? I don’t think so. Even the last 4-5 years has been rebuilding, something we were able to hold off until it all crashed down. So I won’t pull a Kardashian. I’m sure many would just point to the Jail Blazer era and leave it at that…but I’d like to dig a little deeper…

2003-2007 and 1994-1997 would get my votes. I could mention the entire Mike Schuler era but seeing as how I couldn’t go two hours without pooping all over myself back then, I doubt my opinion will count for very much. Blame Sam Bowie’s legs and Kiki.

2003-2007 is my personal least favorite. Not just because we started losing but because all of my favorite players got jettisoned. Sheed, Bonzi and co. were gone. In came Shareef and Theo…and they just weren’t Blazers to me. They wore the uniform, they were on the team…but I had no affiliation to them. The Rose Garden might as well have been a morgue. The terrible draft choices (Telfair, Khryapa, Monia), Ha Seung-Jin starting, Juan Dixon being one of the top three players, Cheeks getting fired, Kevin Pritchard coaching, having to stomach Telfair and Jarrett Jack as PG’s, Qyntel Woods, The Z-Bo Offense (post up near the three point line, wag the hand, jab, jab, clank). Just disgusting. Probably my lowest point as a Blazer fan.

The second darkest era of my lifetime would have to be the end of the Adelman era/entire PJ Carlesimo era. I mean….Kevin Duckworth turns into Harvey Grant. Clyde Drexler turns into Otis Thorpe and then wins a championship. Terry, Jerome and Buck walk off in free agency. Chris Dudley becomes a starter. Cliff Robinson morphs into an All-Star who disappeared in the playoffs. Kenny Anderson and JR Rider were here. PJ Carlesimo was the freakin’ head coach. Re-read that for emphasis. Three playoff wins in three years. The worst elimination performance ever (until the Hawks this year). 102-64. Game 5, in Utah. Thank you Rod Strickland’s hangover. I remember when the Rose Garden opened, and it was this huge deal. We opened it up against the Vancouver Grizzlies in their very first game. And they came in and won 92-80. Benoit Benjamin had 29 and 13. I kid you not, look it up on Basketball Reference. I’ll never forget that one. Depending on Dontonio Wingfield and Aaron McKie was torture.

And this leads me to deeper thought about what it means to be a Blazer fan. You see….in my eyes it’s been pretty complicated to be a Blazer fan. For the first 17 years of my life the Blazers were in the Playoffs…thus I couldn’t openly complain about them. Complaining about a team who always made the playoffs would be like complaining about having to date Carrie Underwood. But as I listed above, there were all sorts of heartbreaking moments left and right. (At least for me) There was the constant ph
ase of excitement and buzz only to end up disappointed in the long run. The return of that excitement is great…to see Rip City being re-created with a new generation is wonderful. But as we head into what everyone and their mom is calling the next Golden Era…with everyone calling when we’ll win a title…I have to sit back. I have to take the pedal off of the gas and look in that rear view mirror. I’ve got to remind myself that while things are looking way up and 1000x times better than the last 5 years there is still a ways to go. And if anything it’s been proven that nothing is guaranteed. Not to sound like a Debbie Downer here but…

…We’ve still got a long way to go.