On Sports

It was 30 years ago today - a beautiful, clear Sunday afternoon. It tells you something about the evolution of sports - we're in the midst of a more-is-better era - that in those days they could finish the NBA Finals by June 5, whereas this year the series won't even start till June 7.

That June 5 -the one in 1977 - was unlike any other day in this city's history. Our hearts beat as one. If you weren't one of the lucky souls jammed into Memorial Coliseum you were in front of a television set, alternately screaming and praying. Or listening to a radio, hanging on Bill Schonely's every word.

Yes, that was the day the Trail Blazers put the finishing touches on Dr. J and his Philadelphia 76ers and brought Portland its one and only major league championship.

Much of the present-day citizenry wasn't around in those days. Obviously, that was a long time ago. But I'm not here to rehash that game.

Actually, I'm embarrassed about how little of it I remember. You would think a sports guy would be able to recall every little play from what turned into the most important game ever in this town.

But I've sat through too many games and too many jump shots since then. And really, it's best not to remember much about games from that era in the NBA because they only make you yearn for the days when basketball was a much prettier game.

What I most remember about that day in 1977 was what it did for my city. And how, for the first time in my life, people who lived in Portland could truly feel like world champions.

For those of you who weren't around back then, the championship parade the next day choked downtown - brought it to a grinding, screaming, ecstatic, happy standstill. The fans wouldn't stay on the curb, crowding the cars and greeting their heroes until it all just stopped.

They estimated that 250,000 people were there, but it seemed like more.

People who weren't living here at the time can't possibly understand the impact this event had on Portland.

I've attempted to explain what this all meant to me in a new book titled 'Red Hot and Rollin'' - a collection of essays put together by Matt Love of Nestucca Spit Press. I was one of several asked to contribute and was honored to be a part of it.

And no, this column isn't some sort of conflict of interest. The full disclosure is I got paid a flat fee for the essay - and Matt, I haven't worked that cheap since about 1975 - and get no further profits from the book.

I think that for those who weren't here, the little book is a chance to find out what the Portland championship was all about. And for those who celebrated the title at the time, the book provides an opportunity to relive a wonderful time.

The book is uneven, as anthologies tend to be, but there's some fun stuff, including offerings by Maurice Lucas, Brian Doyle, Carla Perry, Bob Robinson, Larry Colton, Paul Knauls and many others.

And the big bonus is an included DVD of a documentary that was shown locally for only a week and then stored away and forgotten. It's worth the price - about $20 - of the book by itself as an inside look at the team and the way it related to the community.

Suddenly, with the recent NBA draft lottery results, the topic of a championship in Portland seems so much more relevant than it did a month ago.

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