Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard reacted to the passing of legendary team broadcaster Bill Schonely, who died Friday at age 93.
“It’s a sad day for the city and the organization. Schonz was somebody that I actually got to know pretty well. When I first got here, he was one of the first people that I met,” Lillard told reporters on Saturday, per Brenna Greene of KOIN. “Anybody that knows him knows that he immediately told me that he was the person who came up with ‘Rip City.’ That was one thing that he owned and something that he was extremely proud of. His voice will be remembered. What he represented will be remembered. I’m just happy that I’ve been around long enough and spent enough time around him to call him a friend.”
Schonely was the original voice of the Trail Blazers, hired for the team’s inaugural season in 1970. He went on to spend nearly three decades as Portland’s play-by-play announcer, stepping away after the 1998 playoffs to eventually take over broadcasting duties for the Portland Beavers Triple-A baseball team. Schonely was re-hired by the team’s new management in an ambassador role five years later, hosting pre-game radio and television segments, special promotions and appearing at community events.
He officially retired from the Blazers after last season.
“Who knew those two words
could mean so much, to so many”
Bill Schonely — 1929 – 2023.#RipCity — forever. ♾️ pic.twitter.com/Rqp9ucNPVK
— Jake (@TheJakeMcGrady) January 21, 2023
A local icon in Portland, Schonely randomly coined the term “Rip City” during a February 18th, 1971 game against the Los Angeles Lakers when Blazers forward Jim Barnett hit a jumper.
“I was gonna say it ‘Rip the twine’ or something but I came up with ‘Rip City! All right!’ And look what happened,” he told Anne Peterson of the Associated Press in April. “It took a little while for that phrase to catch on. I had no idea that all of this was going to happen. But it did, and wherever you go, it’s humbling to me, but it’s ‘Rip City.'”
Lillard famously grabbed a courtside microphone after hitting a series-winning three as the final buzzer sounded against the Houston Rockets in the 2014 playoffs, shouting Schonely’s catchphrase, “Rip City,” to an adoring home crowd.
Schonely is survived by his wife, Dottie, and their four adult children. RIP, Schonz!