• Jay Christian

TRAILBLAZER


Photo Courtesy of OregonLive.com

Yesterday the world was shocked to learn of the passing of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen. Allen had recently announced that his cancer had returned and sadly he succumbed to complications from the disease shortly thereafter.

Most of the world knows Allen for his partnership with Bill Gates to create the software giant. But to sports fans, especially those in the Pacific Northwest, Allen is also the owner of the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers.

I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2014 from Texas. Coming from Houston and being a huge NBA fan, I suggested to my wife that we should live in Portland which was also an NBA city. Seattle won out however and so we settled in the Emerald City.

Luckily for us, and probably a bit shocking for anyone who has ever read Breaks of the Game, Seattle has adopted the Blazers as its team so I am able to get my local NBA coverage (“adopted” is a bit strong, maybe foster care with the Blazers until we #BringBackTheSonics, but I digress).

Allen’s generosity and philanthropy off the field dwarf all of his accomplishments on it, but here are a few of his memorable moments as Blazers’ owner.

Portland reaches the NBA Finals in ’90 and ’92.

Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter lead the Blazers to the NBA Finals just two years after Allen buys the team, falling to the Detroit Pistons. They returned again in 1992 and faced off against Michael Jordan and the Chicago, falling short again in the six games. Although the two trips did not bring Portland a title, these early 90s teams were a fixture in the Western Conference, often squaring off with the Lakers, Sonics and Jazz for conference supremacy. Other than the Walton-led Blazers of the 70s, these were probably the best Blazer teams to date.

Brandon Roy wins Rookie of the Year.

The Blazers drafted the former Washington Husky and Seattle native with the sixth pick in the 2006 NBA Draft and B-Roy had an immediate impact. Ironically, Roy’s first game was against his hometown Sonics, where Roy went for 20 points in his NBA debut. He went on to garner ROTY honors, receiving 127 of 128 first place votes. A degenerative knee condition forced Roy to retire much too early, but he left Blazers fans with some great memories before saying goodbye.

Allen Votes to Keep The Sonics in Seattle.

So, this one is an off-the-court moment, but to anyone in the 206, it is no less significant. When Clay Bennett and his ownership group decided to relocate the Sonics to Oklahoma City in 2008. In a 28-2 vote, only Allen and Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban voted against relocating the Sonics. They is far more extensive reporting and analysis on the Sonics’ relocation that you can find on the internet, but this gesture by Allen cannot be understated. The Seattle knew how much the Sonics meant to the city and voted as such. The people of Seattle never forgot that and returned his support in kind.

Damian Lillard nails a buzzer beater to eliminate the Houston Rockets in 2014.

As a transplant from Houston, it hurts to write this one. But these are great Blazers moments, so I will respect the rules of the game. In a tightly contested first round match-up against Houston, the Blazers were down a bucket with .9 seconds left in Game Six. The Rockets were looking to force Game Seven and were less than a second from doing so until Lillard catches the sideline out of bounds pass and drills a 35-foot dagger as time expires. For good measure, Lillard grabs the PA Announcer’s microphone and shouts the infamous “Rip City!!!!” to the Rose Garden faithful. The moment give you chills if you didn’t have on a James Harden jersey that night.

The Seattle Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII.

Again, taking liberties with the list, but still an awesome moment for the Pacific Northwest. One the ways Seattle showed its appreciation for Allen was rabid support of the Seahawks. That support was rewarded as a young Russell Wilson and the defensive unit known as the Legion of Boom throttled Peyton Manning and the Denver

Broncos to capture the team’s first Super Bowl win.

Since arriving here in 2014, I realized how much local fans appreciated Allen’s passion for his teams and desire to win. He will be missed for this and so much more. Rest in Peace.

#WarriorsvsBlazers17 #NBAhistory #JayChristian