Why Portland is called ‘Rip City’
In November 2018, the Portland Trail Blazers introduced (and have since updated) their “City Edition” jerseys. The designs clearly aesthetically referenced the classic uniforms of the franchise’s late ’70s look, but the text also presented a less-obvious reference to the early Blazer days: the words “Rip City.”
Longtime NBA followers may be familiar with the term as a nickname for Portland — specifically to the city’s lone major sports franchise (sorry Timbers). But many fans probably don’t know the origin of the term, which has become an ubiquitous rallying cry for the Blazers’ culture-at-large and the entire Portland region:
The mantra was coined by iconic play-by-play radio man Bill “The Schonz” Schonely in the franchise’s inaugural season of 1970-71. On Feb. 18, the Los Angeles Lakers — featuring Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Gail Goodrich — visited the Memorial Coliseum in Portland to face a dreadful Blazers expansion team led by non-Hall of Famers Geoff Petrie, Leroy Ellis, and Jim Barnett.
After a surprising second-half comeback brought the Blazers within two points, Barnett tied the game with an improbable (pre-3-point line) deep jumper — sending the crowd into a frenzy and prompting Schonely to let out an impromptu “Rip City!” yelp. Portland ultimately fell to the future Western Conference Finalists (and 1972 champs), but that moment has lived on in Blazers lore.
Still, the precise reason why Schonely blurted out that term is unclear — even to The Schonz:
“All it takes is that one moment when that entire stadium comes together, and you’re bearing witness to history. I felt it … when Jimmy Barnett hit an incredible game-tying shot, the crowd went crazy, and I yelled out ‘Rip City!’ Who knew those two words could mean so much to so many,” Schonely reflected in a video for the Blazers’ YouTube page.
Whenever the Moda Center next hosts a playoff game, expect to hear “WE ARE . . . RIP CITY!” chants loud and clear.