Bad luck seems to always follow the Portland Trail Blazers throughout history. Don’t get it wrong, the team enjoyed success and has managed to stay as contenders through the years in the competitive Western Conference.
However, right when they are primed to reach the pinnacle, the Blazers somehow suffer a cruel fate.
Here are just some of the most heartbreaking moments in Rip City history.
Blazers And Centers
Probably no other team in NBA history has had to deal with disheartening injuries more than the Blazers franchise. For some twisted reason, Lady Luck just doesn’t seem to be on Portland’s side especially when it comes to the health of their bigs.
The Blazers rose to prominence in the ‘70s thanks in large part to the brilliance of their 6-foot-11 center Bill Walton. The UCLA-product simply towered over the competition and led the franchise to its first and only NBA title in 1977 — where he also won Finals MVP.
He also won season MVP the following year. It went downhill from there when tests revealed that Walton’s navicular bone below his left ankle was broken.
He was never the same after that, which eventually led to his departure from the team in 1979.
A few years later, the legend of Sam Bowie was born. The Kentucky-big’s name will forever be synonymous with the word “bust” considering he was picked before the GOAT Michael Jordan in the 1984 Draft.
Bowie’s rookie season was left to be desired. His battle with leg injuries began in his second year when he broke his left tibia in ’86. A few games into his third season, he landed awkwardly and shattered his right tibia. The horrible trend continued in the ensuing years, as Bowie’s body would never hold up together.
Greg Oden was supposed to break the Portland center curse when the team drafted him first overall in 2007 (over Kevin Durant who went no. 2). That hype quickly evaporated when Oden missed his entire freshman year after undergoing micro-fracture surgery on his right knee. His only “healthy season” came in 08-09 when he suited up for 61 games.
To be fair, Oden did look dominant during the rare times he actually played. But we’ll never really know what could have been, as multiple knee injuries, a fractured patella, a knee cap injury, among many others, robbed us of that chance.
Two Finals defeats
After getting a taste of the championship in their first try in 1977, the Blazers were hungry for more. They returned to contention in the early ’90s and came out of the West twice during that tenure. Led by the high-flying exploits of Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, Portland set up a date with defending champions Detroit Pistons in 1990.
The Bad Boys’ physicality was just too much for the Blazers, as they succumbed in five games. They returned to the promised land in 1992—this time against another reigning champion—the Chicago Bulls.
Drexler was viewed as the second-best shooting guard in the league at the time behind the Bulls’ Michael Jordan. However, MJ proved that the gap between them couldn’t have been bigger, as Chicago edged Portland in six games.
Blazers Blowing 16-point 4th quarter lead in WCF
The Los Angeles Lakers’ dynasty in the early 2000s would not have started had the Blazers not messed up in their winner-take-all matchup in 2000.
They outclassed the Lakers for the first three quarters and held a commanding 16-point lead at one point in the fourth period.
Rasheed Wallace was wreaking havoc in the frontline, while two-way wing players Scottie Pippen and Steve Smith gave the late Kobe Bryant and company a hard time.
They dropped the ball (literally), allowing the Purple and Gold to outscore them 31-13 in the final period to escape with an 89-84 victory.
This match also gave birth to one of the most amazing highlights in playoff history. Too bad it was at the Blazers’ expense. Bryant hooked up with Shaquille O’Neal for a now-legendary alley-oop to seal the mighty comeback win.
Brandon Roy’s career
Since Day 1, it was evident that Brandon Roy was a special player. He was a breath of fresh air for the entire state of Oregon as they tried to shake off that “Jail Blazers” persona.
If only his damn knees held up.
Roy entered the league in 2006 and immediately proved that he could be the franchise’s cornerstone for years to come. He had the size, the scoring touch, and an attitude of a superstar. The 6-foot-6 guard was fearless and he always made it his responsibility to save the team during crucial moments.
He passed with flying colors almost every time. At the height of his powers, Roy was considered a top 3 shooting guard in the league alongside Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.
The lack of cartilage on his knees, which bothered him since college, ultimately led to his downfall. Roy was often willing to play through the pain, but the continuous bone-on-bone grinding on his knees took its toll on Roy both physically and mentally.