All-Time Favorite (and Least Favorite) Trail Blazers

The release of Brandon Roy this week got me thinking about who my all-time favorite Blazers are. Of course, Roy is on the list. Now, I’m not saying these are the most talented players the team ever saw, and you’ll notice that none of them are before 1990 or so. I moved to Oregon in 1988, and started following basketball at the same time. Therefore, these are the guys whom I loved to watch play the most.

Terry Porter – Point Guard
Porter is, to me, the greatest shooter in Trail Blazers history. He was the kind of guy that had you standing up as he shot, because you felt like it was always going to go in (and it quite often did). He also was very smart, and his leadership was key to the two Blazers’ finals runs in the 90’s.

Brandon Roy – Shooting Guard
What more can be said about Brandon, other than that he was supremely gifted, a natural leader, and a top-ten NBA player when his knees finally gave out. He was deft around the basket, was unstoppable with his step-back jumper, and had an innate sense of time and place when it came down to the end of the game.

Clyde Drexler – Small Forward
It’s kind of a cheat, but I put Clyde at the Small Forward Spot. He can handle it. Clyde always had that incredible athleticism, and a “how’d he do that?!” kind of game. His shot was too flat, he could do nothing with his left hand, and yet he consistently made plays. He was also the kind of guy you’d love to hang out with.

Rasheed Wallace – Power Forward
Rasheed was a knucklehead, to be sure, but he was OUR knucklehead. The guy was so naturally good at basketball, that the game itself seemed to come easy to him. I always felt like no matter what, through all the technical fouls and other nonsense, that Rasheed cared about winning.

Arvydas Sabonis – Center
It’s been well documented that Arvydas was past his prime when the Blazers finally got him, but he was still mesmerizing to watch play. That flat, flip of a 3-pointer. Those no look drop passes to cutters. That scowl when he would bang against Shaq in big games.

The Bench
Wesley Matthews
Although he has the well-earned reputation as a grinder, the label belies Matthews’s impressive skill-set. I think he has grown as a player each of the years he’s been in Portland, even if his stats are fairly static. He’s a smart, witty guy, and I think that he brings that intelligence to the court.

Rod Strickland
Another polarizing figure for some, I always felt Rod Strickland was like watching lightning. He was so quick, and as a high school player, I would tape my fingers just like Strickland, and try to BE him when I played.

LaMarcus Aldridge
I love watching LaMarcus play. He gets bagged on at times for being “soft,” which is a label I’ll never understand. All the guy does is hit shots and rebound. You can’t name another player with his kind of shooting touch, who also bangs down low like Reggie Evans. It’s one or the other. I’ll take the really talented guy who can score in a wide variety of ways.

Cliff Robinson
Uncle Cliffy! Another dynamic inside-out big, Cliff Robinson was always so easy to root for, and not just for his trademark headband. When he stepped up against David Robinson in the playoffs his rookie year, without backing down, he won my heart forever.

Kevin Duckworth
With his weight struggles, it’s easy to forget that Kevin Duckworth was a two-time all-star in the 90’s, when the Western Conference was packed with talented centers. That sweet jump hook and push jump shot was automatic, and he always seemed like a guy you wanted on your side.

Ime Udoka
If you can’t cheer for a guy like Ime Udoka, then you probably have no soul. Obviously, the fact he’s from Portland helps, but he was really the glue to the transition year the Blazers had from the Jail Blazers era to the Roy-Aldridge era. He’s proof that you don’t have the be the team’s star to be the team’s leader. His corner three was deadly, and he was a lock-down defender. It’s no wonder the Spurs stole him away.

Damon Stoudamire
Another guy from Portland, Damon always got a bad rap from his hometown fans. I am not sure why they thought he’d be the same guy who averaged 20 points a game for Toronto, when he was never going to get the number of shots he did on those bad Raptors teams. I appreciated that Damon looked to be aggressive, not necessarily just for his own shot. He wanted to win more than anything else.

The Rest
Greg Anthony
Nicolas Batum
Mario Elie
Jarrett Jack
Fred Jones
Richie Frahm
Damian Lillard
Robert Pack
Martell Webster
Brian Grant
Jerome Kersey
Travis Outlaw

Least Favorite Blazers Ever
Looking over the list of past Blazers, I realized there are guys for whom I always hated to cheer. For most of them, it was their games on the court, not who they were as people.

Luke Babbitt
I’m sure he’s a nice person, but he’s useless on the court. I always feel like he’s not shooting to make the shot, but rather not to miss. The fact he can’t do anything else but shoot three-pointers makes him a liability. And let’s face it: he has kind of a punchable face.

Chris Dudley
Politically, he’s a carpet-bagging douchebag. But I disliked him long before I knew any of that. Wildly untalented, he was like watching a gangly JV center who you knew was someday going to grow into his body. The problem was, Dudley was fully-grown.

Raymond Felton
Donuts, donuts, donuts. Plus, I don’t know if you knew this, but his horrible play wasn’t his fault, or at least that’s what he’s told me.

Jeff McInnis
Another North Carolina point guard disaster. McInnis was the classic “all ability, no game” NBA player. He coasted by his whole life by being quicker than everybody else, but never worked hard to develop the skills to truly excel when faced with equally gifted players. I dreaded every missed open jumper and stupid turnover.

Darius Miles
Miles takes the cake for squandered ability. 6’9″ with a huge wingspan, Miles looked like he should have been good at basketball, but he wasn’t. He couldn’t shoot, and wasn’t smart enough to contribute in other ways. On the plus side, he did a really nice job acting in his cameo in Van Wilder, so you know, that’s nice.

What do you think? Who were your favorite and least favorite players?

High School Hoops

My friend Micah gave me a couple of DVDs recently with two of our high school basketball games on them. It was our two most memorable wins of my senior year, which was the 1995-96 season. We beat Corbett in their gym, which was the first time that had ever happened. They were also the 2-time defending state champs, although they had lost a lot of players from those teams.

The second game was against North Clackamas Christian, which would go on to win the 1A state championship that year. Their school was actually bigger than ours; we should have also been a 1A school, so it was kind of bittersweet that they won the title, and we just missed the 2A playoffs. We felt like that could have been us. Anyway, nostalgia, huh?

It’s funny to see myself from back then. Some things have changed, like my weight, but a lot of things remain the same, like my waddle of a run. I look like a baby duck chasing its mama.

Anyway, feel free to enjoy the games. They’re broken into 2 parts each.

Portland Lutheran vs. Corbett – Part 1

Portland Lutheran vs. Corbett – Part 2

Portland Lutheran vs. North Clackamas Christian – Part 1

Portland Lutheran vs. North Clackamas Christian – Part 2

Top Ten for 2011

It’s been a while since I posted anything, and I think part of that is because I’ve had such a good and busy fall. I thought I’d take some time to share some of my favorite things of the year. These are the things I experienced this year that made my year a good one.

10. Pizza Stone

pizza stoneMy in-laws got me a pizza stone for my grill last Christmas, and holy cow was it a great present. We made all kinds of fantastic pizza: pear and blue cheese, barbeque chicken, bacon and cheese, sausage and pepper, and more. Just put the stone on the grill when you fire it up, and when it’s hot, cover the stone with corn meal, roll out your dough, and top your pizza. The crust is crunchy, the cheese is gooey and smokey, and you can’t beat the flavor.

9. Captain America

Now, first off, I don’t think that Captain America is a perfect movie, but I sure enjoyed it. Part of it is sentimental. Captain America was my favorite comic book as a kid, so to see it on the bigscreen was awesome. I have some quibbles with it, most notably its lack of Nazis. The best part of the comic book as a kid was seeing Cap routinely defeat evil Nazi plans. In the movie, the Red Skull (the film’s villain) almost immediately breaks off from Germany to form his own evil organization. I think that was a big mistake, and a befuddling decision.

But that’s my only real complaint. I thought that there were so many awesome little touches, such as having Cap going around selling war bonds in that wool uniform. It just made me happy to see something I liked so much as a kid so brilliantly executed on the big screen.

8. Sushi Chiyo

I love the sushi train in all of its forms. However, Vancouver’s Sushi Chiyo takes the cake (of rice, topped with salmon) right now. Most sushi train places put only 2-3 pieces on each plate, with only simple items like California Rolls available. But Sushi Chiyo offers full plates, with 4-5 pieces, and it offers a wide variety of choices. I’ve had rainbow rolls, spider rolls, and the biggest pieces of salmon sashimi possible. Go during happy hour (2:30-4:30pm), and every plate is only $1.50, which is a steal.

Find it at: 13007 NE Highway 99 Vancouver, WA 98686

7. Four on the Floor Hamburger Challenge

I already blogged about this here, but the Four on the Floor Hamburger Challenge was awesome. It was my baby; I wanted to see if we could eat four hamburgers at four places in four hours. Turns out, almost all nine of us could. Read the blog for the details in all their gastronomic glory.

6. Los Gorditos Mexican Food

Los Gorditos is a taco cart on the corner of 50th and Division, and I think that their burritos are the greatest in all of Portland. The best part of Los Gorditos’s menu is free: their sauces. They have a great salsa bar. My favorites are their green sauce, their smoky chipotle, best of all, their peppery red sauce. The Stacy Burrito rolls up your choice of meat, rice, beans, cheese, sour cream, grilled onions, cilantro, and that red sauce in an enormous tortilla. I always end up dumping at least 4 containers of sauce on it, too, resulting in a delicious, sweaty experience. The red sauce has one of those flavors that makes the corners of my tongue, where the muscle meets my jaw, start to cringe and salivate. Mmmm….

5. The Stormy Weather Arts Festival at Cannon Beach

Marisa and I have been going to the beach every fall since we first started dating 13 years ago, so for this trip Marisa had the great idea to go during the Stormy Weather Arts Festival, a weekend of art and wine at the town’s galleries. She got a great deal on a hotel, so we were able to stay 3 nights.

We went out on Friday and Saturday night, drinking wine and enjoying some interesting (and not-so-interesting) art. It was fascinating to see the different approaches the galleries had to their inventory. Generally speaking, I don’t think highly of the kind of art available at the coast, but I was genuinely surprised to see some paintings and sculptures I found interesting. It was good to see young artists with edgier style, instead of just the dowdy middle-brow fare usually for sale. I’ve had enough of sad Native Americans and paintings of Haystack Rock, and this year’s festival delivered new choices (not that we could afford any of them).

4. Hoops Tournament

For my birthday this year, I decided to throw myself the birthday party I’ve always wanted: a basketball tournament. I invited 18-20 guys to a gym I rented out, split them up into 4 teams, and played a big tournament. We had a clock and a scoreboard, and we played a round-robin schedule.
hoops tournament
I picked the teams, and tried to keep them even. I won’t lie: I stacked my own team. But honestly, I only picked guys with whom I enjoy playing, not just good players. My squad managed to win the whole thing. Happy birthday to me!

3. Brandon Roy Leads Miracle Comeback

When Brandon Roy led the Blazers back against the Mavericks in Game 4 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, it was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen in sports. At the lowest point, the Blazers were down 23 points, and Roy single-handedly brought the team back and eventually ahead.

I was watching the game at home, and Marisa can tell you, I went from down in the dumps to screaming and standing by the end. Just thinking about the comeback gives me chills.

2. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Last year, it was Of Montreal. This year, it’s Neutral Milk Hotel.

I know, this album came out in 1998. But I only discovered it this year, so it counts, dammit! There are so many reasons that I shouldn’t like this album. The lyrics are reportedly based on the life story of Anne Frank, which sounds painfully pretentious. It’s sort of folky, and I generally don’t go for folk music. The singer, Jeff Mangum, has sort of a whiny, nasally voice.

And yet, I can’t stop listening to this album. The lyrics (about Anne Frank) are strange and beautiful. The melodies are gorgeous and catchy, and the raw-feeling production values are perfect. I think that the album makes you relate to something and someone in a situation seemingly impossible to really understand.

1. Paris and London

My wife would likely kill me if this wasn’t the number one thing on my list, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the best thing I did all year. Marisa and I took about two weeks during April to see Paris. The airfare was so much cheaper to go to London, so we decided to fly there and take the chunnel over to Paris.

I had never been to Paris, but Marisa had, and she was excited to show me the city. We rented an apartment for a week just half a mile from the Eiffel Tower, which was a great experience. We were able to take the Metro train wherever we needed, we ate cheese and drank wine everyday, and we saw a phenomenal amount of art and history.

I never thought I’d see Paris, and to actually get there was simply amazing.

There, that’s my list. What would be on yours?