Portland Trail Blazers: 3 teams that deserve their own “The Last Dance” docuseries

Damon Stoudamire, Bonzi Wells, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Damon Stoudamire, Bonzi Wells, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /
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Portland Trail Blazers
Damon Stoudamire, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Scouting Report. Pick Analysis. . player. 34. . The Jail Blazers Era 2002-03. 2

Could a list have respectability without putting this team here? As long as you stick within the Jail Blazers era, you’re guaranteed class-A entertainment, sound bytes for days, and one valuable lesson the Blazers had to learn the hard way:

You can’t rush the process of building chemistry and character by trying to overflow the team with talent.

The story itself, just like the Bulls’ 1997-98 season, begins a few years prior. For a start-to-finish reciting, it probably begins with that 1995-96 Portland Trail Blazers team that famously ordered tickets to the Bahamas during a Playoff series against the Jazz, and were pissed that instead, they had to go back to Salt Lake City to play another game. Yes, that actually happened.

As the case usually is with compiling talented (and often misunderstood) outcasts from around the league, nearly every player went through battles with the law and maturity, and that made them a lightning rod for criticism.

One of the more comical, yet infinitely-disappointing stories is found in Kerry Eggers’ Jail Blazers book. This one describes J.R. Rider’s alleged ploy of sneaking alcohol on the team planes. In what could be the most hilarious part of the book:

"“Sometimes on the team plane, he would put a blanket completely over his head. They had booze on the team plane then. You’d see a blanket moving up and down as he’s drinking out of a bottle. Sometimes, he’d say something to the flight attendant that sounded like, ‘Hey (expletive), make me a tuna fish sandwich.”"

Or, perhaps the story of how the team couldn’t find Rider on the way to the game, so they sent a team official to a hotel room, where they suspected he was with a woman, instead of preparing for a game.

Or, you can tell the story of Zach Randolph damaging Ruben Patterson’s eye socket, and then after learning that Patterson was going to retaliate, went into hiding at Dale Davis’ house.

Or, the time Qyntel Woods used a basketball trading card as an identification card, a failed attempt that cost him $1,096 in a traffic stop.

Despite never winning an NBA championship, the Jail Blazers are probably one of very few teams in hoops history that could sustain intrigue over the course of a 10-part documentary, or something close to that.

And beyond that, any time a team faces a negative connotation, they deserve a chance to explain their sides of the story, or to discuss the reasons they are the way they are. Especially given the internal, residual effects it had on the on-court play.

The mental unraveling the Blazers so-often succumbed to in big games deserves a deep-dive to. Think Game 1 of the 1999 West Finals, Game 7 of the 2000 West Finals, among others. Even despite that, they were on the doorstep of multiple championships. And by 2003, they likely knew they were on their final legs. There will never be another team like this.

There’s also the chance for generational perspectives with Gary Trent Sr., and Gary Trent Jr., both playing for the Blazers, a potentially-seamless transition given Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells’ movement into the podcast and media world, and, most of all, given society’s understanding of mental health, and its newfound respect for medicinal drugs and what not, time and fortune could be on Portland’s side to tell their own exciting story.