The Portland Trail Blazers are one of the oldest, most decorated franchises in NBA history. Their rafters are adorned with dozens of banners, representing the many great players who have called the Rose Garden (now the Moda Center) home, and all the club's divisional and conference titles. They even have an NBA championship to their name, which is something many teams can't say they've earned. (Also, they once had a collection of dudes known as "The Jail Blazers". Very underrated).
However, the Trail Blazers have also gained a reputation as one of the unluckiest clubs in professional sports. They infamously selected Sam Bowie second overall in 1984, one pick ahead of Michael Jordan, the GOAT. They selected Greg Oden first overall in 2007, one spot ahead of Kevin Durant. Brandon Roy, the club's first round pick in 2006 and one of the best young players in the league, had his career abruptly terminated by injuries. Hell, just last summer, the team lost four members of their starting five, leaving behind Damian Lillard and a cast of skilled, but mostly unproven miscreants. Like a basketball version of the Sandlot (Don't check that statement for accuracy). The Blazers have faced adversity at every step, often self-inflicted, and every time, they've fought back. Clyde Drexler still brought the Blazers success without Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge blossomed into an All-Star without Oden, and Damian Lillard ran a warpath through the NBA and brought that team to the Playoffs (There's nothing positive to say about the Brandon Roy situation. That's just depressing).
The Trail Blazers don't have a Murderers' Row of alumni, like the Lakers or Celtics, but they have a collection of hard nosed players who fought to the bitter end every single night, delivering highlights, wins, and BUCKETS! This list celebrates them as they rightly deserve.
(Honorable mention to Drazen Petrovic. He barely got any playing time with the Trail Blazers, but he was absolutely incredible and deserves to be honored at all possible times.)
29 15. C.J. McCollum
- NBA Most Improved Player (2016)
At 24, C.J. McCollum is the youngest active player on this list, roughly fourteen months younger than Damian Lillard. So, how does he makes this list for a franchise that's been around since 1970? Primarily because his ascension from back-up to borderline All-Star happened so instantaneously. McCollum was drafted tenth overall by the Trail Blazers in 2013 and spent most of his first two seasons coming off the bench in support of incumbent starter Wesley Matthews. However, when an Achilles injury forced Matthews out of action before the 2015 Playoffs, McCollum took his spot in the rotation, averaging 17 points and 4 rebounds in 33 minutes per game, up from 15.7 minutes per game in the regular season. After Matthews left for the Dallas Mavericks the following summer, McCollum claimed the starting shoot guard spot for good. In his first season as a starter, McCollum averaged 20.8 points (triple his previous high), 4.3 assists (quadruple his previous high), 3.2 rebounds (double his previous high), and 1.2 steals (double his previous high) per game, claiming the 2016 NBA Most Improved Player Award in the process and helping the (seemingly) undermanned Blazers reach the second round of the Playoffs.
27 14. Arvydas Sabonis
- NBA All-Rookie First Team (1996)
Arvydas Sabonis is a big "What If?" in NBA history. To many fans, the Sabonis name is probably more recognizably attached to Domantas Sabonis, Arvydas' son and one of the players the Orlando Magic used to
get absolutely fleeced by the Oklahoma City Thunder acquire Serge Ibaka earlier this summer. However, Sabonis the Elder is one of the most legendary European players in basketball history, sporting a list of accolades as long as Kawhi Leonard's arms. A monster of a man at 7'3", Sabonis was immensely talented and surprisingly versatile, his passing abilities often compared to Larry Bird. Unfortunately, for all his achievements overseas, Sabonis didn't play in the NBA until 1995, when he was thirty-one, nine years after he was officially drafted by the Trail Blazers, having spent his best years in Spain and his native Lithuania. In his seven year tenure in Portland, he averaged 12 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game, occasionally flashing the potential of what he could have been had he entered the league a decade sooner. However, even on the tail end of his career, he was a productive, versatile force to be reckoned with for the Blazers.
25 13. Cliff Robinson
Cliff Robinson is a good example of a second round player with low expectations attached to him rising through the ranks and earning his place in the starting lineup. The Trail Blazers drafted Robinson thirty-sixth overall in 1989 and he spent the first few seasons of his career coming off the bench, eventually rising to a sixth man role, valued for his ability to generate offense and his tenacious defense. He won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award for the 1992-1993 season, averaging 19.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2 blocks per game. After that season, he officially moved into a full time starting role, making his only All-Star squad his first year on the job, averaging 20.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He continued to put up impressive numbers for the rest of his Portland tenure, eventually leaving the team in the summer of 1997, developing into an all-out defensive specialist with the Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons.
23 12. Lionel Hollins
Most people are probably familiar with Lionel Hollins, the coach. He led the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals in 2013, past the Oklahoma City Thunder, only to be fired the following summer and was last seen being scapegoated for the Brooklyn Nets systemic failures. However, long before he ever stalked the sidelines, he was a damn good NBA player. He only played ten years in the Association and he five of those years, undoubtedly his best years, with the Trail Blazers. Drafted sixth overall in 1975 by the Blazers, Hollins came out swinging, averaging 10.8 points and 4.1 assists as a rookie. He progressively improved as time went on, helping the Blazers win their only NBA championship in 1977 and making his lone All-Star team the next year, when he averaged 15.9 points, 4.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1980, but never truly regained his All-Star form. The Trail Blazers retired his #14 in 2007.
21 11. Terry Porter
- 2 Time NBA All-Star
Ironically, when Lionel Hollins retired in 1985, the Trail Blazers finally managed to find his full time replacement, whom they had been searching for five years, in Terry Porter. Drafted twenty-fourth overall in 1985, Porter started slow, coming off the bench for most of his rookie season, but immediately blew the doors off his sophomore year, averaging 13.1 points, 8.9 assists, and 2 steals per game, all massive improvements. He only got better from there, making two All-Star teams in 1991 and 1993 as he transitioned into more of an offensive role, sharing ball handling duties with Clyde Drexler. Alongside Drexler and Cliff Robinson, he helped the Blazers reach two NBA Finals in three years, although they were defeated by the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, respectively. He left Portland in the summer of 1995 as his production began declining and eventually retired in 2002. The Trail Blazers retired his #30 in 2008.
19 10. Geoff Petrie
Geoff Petrie is one of those good-to-great players whose name doesn't get brought up very much. While some of those names have simply been obscured because they played in the shadows of giants, like Jack Sikma was by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Petrie's name is little known because his career was so brief. Drafted eighth overall by the Trail Blazers in 1970, Petrie hit the ground running, averaging 24.8 points and 4.8 assists per game, making his first All-Star team and winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award. For the rest of his career in Portland, which only spanned an additional five seasons, Petrie was a revelation, averaging +24 points per game two more times in his career and never averaging less than 18 points in a season. Over his six year tenure with the Blazers, Petrie averaged 21.8 points (on .455% shooting), 4.6 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. He was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in 1976, but never played a game for them, as he suffered a cataclysmic knee injury that ended his career. The Trail Blazers retired his #45 in 1981.
17 9. Rasheed Wallace
BALL DON'T LIE! Every basketball fan knows Rasheed Wallace, but they remember him less for his on-court abilities and instead for his many, many, many unsportsmanlike transgressions. 'Sheed is the NBA's all time leader in technical fouls and popularized the term "Ball Don't Lie", which he used to yell at officials when he disagreed with a call. Today, it'll likely land a player an automatic ejection (They really hate it). Despite that, 'Sheed was a very talented player, a four time All-Star and one of the original stretch fours. 'Sheed was drafted fourth overall by the Washington Wizards in 1995, but was traded to the Trail Blazers the next summer. He played in Portland for eight seasons, averaging 16.8 points and 7 rebounds per game, leading the team to the Western Conference Finals in 1999 and 2000. He also managed to set a league record with 38 technical fouls in a season, which is a little bit impressive. He was eventually traded to the Atlanta Hawks (very briefly), then the Detroit Pistons, where he found his greatest success and helped the club win an NBA championship in 2004 against Shaq and Kobe.
15 8. Jim Paxson
No, not the guy who won three championships with Michael Jordan (They are brothers, though. The more you know, huh?). Much like Geoff Petrie, Jim Paxson was a good-to-great player that never managed to escape the shadows of the leagues megastars. However, unlike Petrie, his career wasn't brought down by injuries, just sharp, rapid decline in production. Drafted twelfth overall by the Trail Blazers in 1979, Paxson sputtered his rookie season, but quickly made up for lost time his sophomore year, when his minutes doubled and he averaged 17.1 points, 3.8 assists, and 1.8 steals, all massive improvements over his rookie numbers. His career reached an apex between 1982 and 1984, when he averaged 21+ points each season and made his only two All-Star teams, and received an All-NBA Second Team nod. However, after that, his career quickly began to trend downward and he was traded in 1988 while only averaging 7.7 points per game.
13 7. Sidney Wicks
History hasn't been kind to big men who played in the shadows of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabar, nor has it been kind to would-be superstars who fell as quickly as they ascended. Unfortunately, both apply to Sidney Wicks. Drafted by the Trail Blazers second overall in 1971, mere weeks after Kareem Abdul-Jabar (then Lew Alcindor), Wicks' former teammate at UCLA, had won his first NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks, and he had a season fit for a king, averaging 24.5 points (albeit on a paltry .427% shooting), 11.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game, making his first All-Star team and winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award. He continued his fantastic level of play over the next four seasons of his Portland tenure, never averaging less than 19 points and 9 rebound per game and making three more All-Star teams. However, he was shipped off to the Boston Celtics in 1976 as his production declined, a year before the franchise won their first championship.
11 6. Maurice Lucas
Like Phil Jackson before him and Dennis Rodman after him, Maurice Lucas was an enforcer, a large, hulking brute who did the dirty work no one else could/would and protected his superstar teammates from wanton violence. However, unlike most other enforcers, Maurice Lucas was able to couple his defensive abilities with legitimate offensive firepower. Drafted fourteenth overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1974, Lucas played the first two seasons of his career in the ABA, for the Spirits of St. Louis (RIP) and the Kentucky Colonels. When the ABA folded in 1976, the Trail Blazers purchased Lucas' rights and he replaced Sidney Wicks in their starting lineup, playing alongside Bill Walton in the front court. He played in Portland for five seasons, averaging 15.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game, making three straight All-Star teams and establishing himself as a defensive powerhouse. He was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 1980 and played on five different teams before finally retiring with the Blazers in 1988. The Trail Blazers retired his #20 in 1988.
9 5. Brandon Roy
Injuries have derailed the careers of many great players (Penny Hardaway, Amar'e Stoudemire, Grant Hill, etc.) and the story of Brandon Roy is one of the most depressing in NBA history, in large part because of how good Roy was and how good he could have been if his body had held up into his prime. Drafted sixth overall by the Trail Blazers in 2006, literally four picks after they acquired second overall pick LaMarcus Aldridge from the Chicago Bulls, Roy wasted no time making a name for himself in the NBA, averaging 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game his first season and winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award. From there on, he only continued to get better, making three consecutive All-Star teams and receiving a duo of All-NBA selections. In the 2009-2010 season, his best year, he averaged 22.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game. Unfortunately, everything went downhill from there. He had knee surgery in the middle of the 2010-2011 season and before the 2011 season began, he announced that his knees had degraded too much and he had to retire.
7 4. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is currently carving a warpath through the NBA, like Russell Westbrook, but with better three-point accuracy and less rebounding. Despite only having been in the league four years, Lillard has made his mark in the association as one of the best floor generals and most precise marksmen in basketball. Drafted sixth overall by the Trail Blazers in 2012, Lillard took hold of the starting point guard position immediately, playing and starting all 82 games his first season, averaging 19 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.1 rebounds per game and unanimously winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award (over Anthony Davis' unibrow, no less). Since then, he's gotten better every single year, averaging 20+ points in the last three seasons and picking up two (should have been three) All-Star nods. After the Blazers lost four out of five of their starting lineup, Damian Lillard became the team's sole leader, averaging 25.1 points, 6.8 assists, and 4 rebounds per game. His shining moment as an NBA player thus far as undoubtedly been his game winner against the Houston Rockets in the 2014 Playoffs, a forty foot three pointer over Chandler Parsons at the buzzer, which won the Blazers their first playoff series in fourteen years.
5 3. LaMarcus Aldridge
Never has a player gone from "criminally underrated" to "prolifically overrated" as quickly as LaMarcus Aldridge. As a nine year member of the Portland Trail Blazers, he was a beloved underdog, never receiving the proper respect he deserved. Then, when he jumped ship to the San Antonio Spurs last season, he became suddenly overrated, a coward who left an already good situation for a dynasty. Drafted second overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2006, but traded to the Blazers on draft night, Aldridge came off the bench for much of his first season. However, once the Blazers traded away Zach Randolph to the New York Knicks, Aldridge's minutes, and production, jumped, averaging 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game, all marginal improvements over his previous numbers. He continued to get better, finally breaking out in the 2010-2011 season, when he averaged 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. After Brandon Roy's retirement that summer, he became the team's undisputed leader, knocking off four straight seasons with at least 21+ points per game and making four consecutive All-Star teams.
3 2. Bill Walton
Remember how unlucky the Trail Blazers have been throughout their history? Bill Walton is the apex of that arc. Remember how depressing the story of Brandon Roy was? Bill Walton somehow manages to surpass that. Drafted first overall by the Trail Blazers in 1974, Walton wasted no time establishing himself as a monster force, averaging 12.8 points, 12.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.7 blocks per game. He rapidly improved, quickly turning the Blazers into contenders, leading them to an NBA championship in 1977, averaging 18.2 points, 15.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 3.4 blocks per game in the Playoffs and claiming the Finals MVP award. The following season, Walton won the regular season MVP award, averaging 18.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2.5 blocks per game. Unfortunately, he was injured early into the Playoffs that year and never played another game for the Blazers, demanding to be traded, citing unethical treatment by the Trail Blazers, and sitting out the following season when they denied his request. He went on to play for the San Diego Clippers and the Boston Celtics, with whom he won another championship, but chronic foot injuries prevented him from ever returning to his peak. The Trail Blazers retired his #32 in 1989.
1 1. Clyde Drexler
Michael Jordan's greatness cast a long shadow and perhaps none of his rivals were stuck in that shadow quite like Clyde Drexler. While many great players were squashed by the GOAT, Drexler holds the ignominious honor of being the reason the Trail Blazers didn't draft His Airness. The Blazers believed they were set at shooting guard and believed drafting Jordan would have been useless. While that thinking may have set them back six championships, they weren't wrong in trusting Drexler's abilities. Drafted fourteenth overall in 1983, Drexler came off the bench much of his rookie season, but broke out in the following years, averaging at least 21.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.8 steals per game from 1986-1992. He peaked in 1988-1989, when he averaged 27.2, 7.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.7 steals per game and brought the Blazers to the NBA Finals, where they were defeated by the Bad Boys Pistons in five games. Drexler brought the Blazers to the Finals again in 1992, where they were defeated by the, who else, Jordan's Bulls in six games. The Blazers traded Drexler to the Houston Rockets in 1995, where he finally won an NBA championship alongside Hakeem Olajuwan. The Trail Blazers retired his #22 in 2000.
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