Here at Blazer’s Edge, we take the opportunity to share Portland Trail Blazers impressed with our readers. You can read more about it here.
Portland Trail Blazers announcer Mike Rice was feeding my anger.
Chandler Parsons had just scored with a shot from a loose ball under the hoop. The Blazers came after the Houston Rockets 98-96 in Game 6 of the 2014 Western Conference first round of the playoffs. Only 0.9 seconds left and the majority of Moda’s audience stood in silence with their hands above their heads.
What was revealed during Parsons’ light-up bucket, and what happened next, was perfectly summarizing why I hold this team so dear to my heart.
Back in my family’s old home in southeast Portland, my dad, mom and older brother and I were watching the game. We were crammed into my mom’s room next to her bed.
In June 2012, at the age of 50, a ruptured blood vessel in the brain and a stroke robbed my mother of independence. The accident forced her to give up her job as a special education teacher at Franklin High School, a position she held for 26 years. To this day, she cannot walk or eat and her hands are too weak to write with a pencil. So during the playoffs game, getting to the basement where we had watched matches for years was an afterthought. She lived outside my brother’s old room on the main floor.
This is how we ended up watching the most pivotal Blazers game in over a decade on the smallest TV in our house in a room that felt smaller with all the medical equipment. It was a lot of pressure, but the pressure of the home and away match made it impossible to watch on your own. In the third quarter, we even transitioned from national television broadcasts to the local broadcast team of Mike Barrett and Mike Rice because we felt more confident in their familiar voices.
Now after Parsons’ bucket, we’ve heard feisty Rice express our pain and frustration by attacking the referees in true “Wild Rice” fashion.
Admittedly, I agreed with the referees. I thought the Blazers point guard Damien Lillard hadn’t established himself inside when he picked up a rebound with 28 seconds left and thought Robin Lopez’s heart flopped in a rebound attempt that left the ball wide open for Parsons. Every replay I saw confirmed my faith with the guide. But the more Rice complained, the more I gave up my territory for emotion. By the time the Blazers got out of time, my brother and I were cursing the referees alongside the old announcer.
As Blazers fans, we’ve been in excruciating pain. I was only a 15-year-old student at Cleveland High School in 2014 Conscious enough to remember the mid-2000s flaw in Blazers Prison. Then I was well aware of the pain of watching a young team collapse so soon because of Brandon Roy and Greg Odin’s paper knees.
And even though I didn’t survive the ’70s, ’80s, and most of the ’90s, I can feel the pain the franchise has had since its debut in 1970. Besides one magical season in 1977, the Blazers’ storied history is full of heart attacks and what ifs. When you grow up in Portland, the pain is passed on from generation to generation.
I can feel the pain of Bill Walton’s broken foot which derailed the strain. I can feel sorry for drafting Bowie on Jordan. I can feel the pain of watching Team 90 led by Clyde Drexler lose twice in the Finals. And I could sense the still fresh wound of my 15-point lead in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals against the Lakers. freaking Lakers.
So, when Parsons—someone who’s been talking trash to the press about all the soap operas (about cute Frenchman Nick Batum, no less!)—scored the green light with less than a second left, it felt like the universe had its revenge on us once again.
The loss means the Blazers have to return to Houston for Game 7 after taking a 3-1 lead. 14 years of misery in the playoffs without a single win in a single series – the longest drought in the league at the time – almost seemed to last. It was too heartbreaking to bear, so looking back, the stinging criticism in Rice’s words and mine seemed just right.
Because on the other side of all that pain, there is a deep, transcendent love for that privilege.
This is it for us a team. Ride or die. The inverse of a lot of the dips are incredible highs when they come in. There’s just something magnetic about this town when the Blazers are on fire.
I remember the first time I felt the “Rip City” phenomenon. It was the 2006 match against the Jazz, just at the beginning of the rebuilding of the main team image and the era of “Rise With Us”. Tickets were still cheap and my family used to go a lot, but for the first time in my career watching a Blazer I saw a win in the Rose Garden. Fans flocked outside the arena, still cheering with Chalupa coupons in hand. A man wearing a fedora launched his saxophone into the hallway, while my brothers and I were talking about strangers.
My dad kept shouting from our car window, “Blazer is back!”
We’re a fan base that prides itself on not needing a jumbotron to motivate our chants, on going crazy for a free Chalupa gift at a loss for a blast, on being the absolute best in the NBA. As CJ McCollum understood in his 2019 Tribune article titled Players’ Rib City“It’s not just a rah-rah thing, like it can sound loud for games. That’s part of it, but it’s just scratching the surface.”
As the city’s only representative in the top four major sports leagues in the United States, the Blazers are a source of great pride. I tried to determine what makes Blazers a different fan. Learn how the team embraces and highlights the identity of this city. Portland is the underdog market, and is overlooked despite the city’s great beauty because it is located so far in the Pacific Northwest.
Not only that, Portland is weird too, as Portland has helped strengthen the nation. The city reveres the arts, jazz lovers, microbreweries and hemp. A professional sports franchise doesn’t necessarily fit this mold, however Blazers walk it in. Undoubtedly, it is “cool” for rooting in Blazers. There is no more hobby than “Portland”. they defy everybodyFrom the straight-laced entrepreneur to the tattooed skater. The skater blazer hat might be more vintage.
So for these reasons, when I see Portland’s skyline on TNT broadcasts, it makes sense to me in a way that no fan from New York or Boston will be able to fathom.
All of that history — deep pain and deep love — is present every time the Blazers take court. It was never more than 0.9 seconds after Parsons’ pitch. All this happened in the blink of an eye.
Parsons sleeps. Lillard rushes to Batum and claps his hands. Batum rolled the ball into Lillard. Lillard shoots low, slanting three pointers from the left wing. swish.
Absolute rush. The sequence is over.
Back in my mom’s little room, my feelings of disappointment turned to ecstasy so quickly, that my brain almost couldn’t comprehend the transformation. There are still traces of anger in my voice. Scream “Yes! Yes!” It sounded like a resolute scream, slightly hoarse, as if I was expelling Blazer Pain Demons through the generations. I got off my chair, and almost fell onto my mom’s bed as I clenched my fists at the TV.
But I will never forget what I saw when I turned to my mother in pandemonium: lying in her bed, her weak arms raised high above her head, waving with remarkable force as she screamed with us. I didn’t know she had the physical or vocal strength. Maybe at that time did not. It was one of those moments that makes you realize the power of sport.
Then Rice said something that made me smile.
“You can’t take it from us, Callahan!”
Just seconds into one of the most amazing shots in match history, Rice couldn’t resist shooting at Mike Callahan, the referee. It makes me laugh to this day when I watch it again.
Nearly eight years later, I’ve watched the shot so many times, I’m almost numb, but if I think seriously, I can re-feel seeing it for the first time.
I am fortunate to have had many great sporting moments in my life as a fan. I grew up during the day of Chip Kelly’s Oregon Duck murder. I was a student sports journalist at Loyola University in Chicago when the school arrived at Final Four in 2018. I even managed to stand in the locker room, while the players and Sister Jane accepted the Southern Regional Trophy after winning the Elite Eight. And then I saw Damien Lillard hit another whistle in 2019 on his way to the Western Conference Finals.
But for the dramatic change of emotions, The Exorcism, Mom and Mike Rice, Damien Lillard’s 0.9-second shot is undoubtedly the greatest sporting moment of my life.
At least until the Blazers win a championship.