NBA, We Reminisce / Oct 20, 2009 / 11:35 am

We Reminisce: The Portland Jail Blazers

Portland Jail Blazers

These days, the business of basketball is good for the Portland Trail Blazers. However, not too long ago, the City of Roses tagged their only pro sports team by another name: the Jail Blazers.

The era of the Jail Blazers is an interesting and lengthy time period, through which it extends from J.R. Rider‘s heyday, until really 2005. Whereas, the Blazers had been branded with this label for a while, I chose to further examine Burnside’s best from ’01 through the ’04 season.

This focus of the Portland Trail Blazers begins as Coach Mike Dunleavy departs and Maurice Cheeks settles in during the ’01-’02 season. During his tenure (through ’04-’05), Cheeks had the distinct pleasure of coaching some of the more talented and dysfunctional NBA players to ever walk through the Rose Garden.

Notable Blazers include: Bonzi Wells, Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, Zach Randolph, Ruben Patterson, Scottie Pippen, Chris Dudley, Arvydas Sabonis, Darius Miles and Qyntel Woods, straight out of Northeast Mississippi Community College.

With stints from: Shawn Kemp, Omar Cook and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (solely included so I could have an excuse to write his name).

Stories of various Blazers acting out towards the public and each other seem to stretch deep. Cursing at autograph seekers, stealing from teammates and even threatening press staffers was just another day at the office. The hell with this city, I’m gonna go out and get mine. That was in essence, the all-encompassing attitude surrounding the Blazers. When pro athletes are looked upon as role models, especially in a city supporting only one sports franchise, the Blazers fell short of expectations.

Not to trounce the entirety of the squad, there were members who still upheld a professional class and attitude about them. Guys like Dudley, Sabonis and Pippen all believed in good community outreach. The trouble is, because most of the news was centered on the negativity surrounding the team, Portland’s image suffered immensely.

And there was plenty of negativity to choose from.

Patterson: a registered sex offender and was arrested for felony domestic abuse against his wife at the time.

Randolph: DUI and punched out Patterson during practice.

Stoudamire: Multiple marijuana charges including speeding while under the influence and trying to gain access through an airport metal detector with 1.5 ounces of the drug wrapped in aluminum foil.

Woods: Marijuana charge and was also arrested for animal abuse because of participation in a dog fighting operation.

Kemp: Had to leave the Blazers mid-season to enter rehab for cocaine and alcohol abuse.

Wells: “They (the fans) really don’t matter to us.”

Wallace: Besides his records for most technical fouls, he also threatened a ref after a game (Although, it was Tim Donaghy, so in retrospect…)

But the Blazers were still winning.

In the three-year span from the 2001-2002 season until ’04, the Blazers had made the playoffs twice and in their lottery year, still won 41 games. Portland would have a strong showing in the regular season and then disappear in the playoffs. Then, as the ’03-’04 season was in full swing, Blazer management began to set in motion what would ultimately become the decimation of the Jail Blazers.

Portland unloaded Wells and traded ‘Sheed to the Hawks, where he played in one game before landing in Motown. With two of the front men for Jail Blazer nation gone, Portland began their road to redemption. Many still consider the following season part of the Jail Blazer tenure, with Stoudamire, Miles, Randolph, Patterson and Nick Van Exel still present with the team. That Blazer squad only managed to pull out 27 wins, but without as many off-court antics as its predecessors, the city was fine.

Then the summer of 2005 arrived.

Owner Paul Allen finally started to steer his money toward higher character guys, while newbie’s, Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan brought a new attitude and direction to the franchise. Both Prichard and McMillan took over the reins of the team in ’05 and after a tough 21-61 outing their first season, have completely turned around the organization. They started selecting talented guys that actually had desirable traits like leadership, integrity and that little thing no one on the old Blazers seemed to have, accountability. By bringing in young guys like Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to build their team around, the Blazers have started to find success.

People are once again proud to rock the black and red in the Northwest. With the Sonics out of Seattle and no other pro franchise in the state of Oregon, Portlanders have embraced the Blazers new youth movement and it has paid dividends.

Many have the Blazers ranked third in the West going into this season behind the Lakers and Spurs. There’s no need to wait five years like Oklahoma City, Portland is ready to contend now. If it were up to me though, I would have just made Sabonis keep playing. Can’t stop that hook!

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  • Chris From LB CALI

    good job.. Once you traded Sheed, the Blazers became a JOKE for MANY MANY YEARS

  • That’s whats up

    So much talent on that team…
    So much weed in Portland…

    It makes perfect sense now

  • http://www.petsocietyhelp.com Pet Society Help

    Those guys were a bunch of chickens running with their heads cut off. I remember watching a nationally televised game on nbc where after the blazers won, Isaiah Rider and Jim Jackson were being interviewed by Hannah Storm with their shirts off and flexing for the camera.

  • Amar

    while the jail blazers were dysfunctional, when they were good and going toe to toe with the lakers in the early 2000’s, they were one of my fav teams, always had love for sheed and even fat, washed kemp, just watching and hoping to see if he could get off the ground, that didn’t happen though, and Sabonis was money, best passing big man to play the game

  • Celts Fan

    This is my favorite non-Boston team in sports history. The stories are PHENOMENAL. I’d kill to read a tell-all book from someone that was there (if one exists, I’m begging you to tell me here!)

    Dime – you missed the story where Qyntel Woods got pulled over and gave his rookie card for ID and the infamous Sheed/Damon “We done smoked it all up” incident. What a treat…

  • sh!tfaced

    One of the most ironic moments about the Jail Blazers was when they drafted a player named Travis OUTLAW in 2003…

  • maeng

    agreed, thos blazer team from 2000 took the lakers to a game 7 and was minutes away from the finals before they lost, the year later, things started falling apart…..but i love watching those pippen led blazers.

  • billbone

    Portland reminds me of cincy basketball teams, very good and lots of trouble. Thats funny i never knew that the ref sheed threatened was donaghy.

  • Ekstor

    Just one minor point… you mention Nick Van Exel as having been “still present with the team”… but he only spent that one season with the Blazers.

    Also… other talented Blazers included Dale Davis, Steve Smith, and Jermaine O’Neal. Was Uncle Cliffy also a part of those squads? Or had he moved on already?

  • Name (required)

    i loved the jail blazers, they were FUN. Their Jersey says “BLAZERS” across the front ffs, there SUPPOSED to smoke weed an get in fights. These new trailblazers are boring, we got enough teams full of role models in the NBA, i want our bad guys back.

  • Ekstor

    Side note… one of the strangest things I had ever seen was in Portland… during the Shaq-Kobe era that coincided with these Jail Blazers. I recall visiting Portland and shortly after leaving the airport area, there was a HUGE advertisement over the entire side of a building (I’m guessing 20 stories at least) showcasing Kobe Bryant.

    You couldn’t even find that in LA at the time… but Portland of all places?

    Any Portland residents who can shed light on that one?

  • the cynic

    i can’t remember; which jail blazer got popped with 8lbs of herb and claimed it was personal use?

  • Kobeef

    @Celts fan
    I’ve never heard the “We done smoked it” story…please elaborate…

    @the cynic
    I remember that story…but can’t remember which player it was. Something tells me it was Qyntel.

  • Zers

    Spurs arent better than the BLazers this year

  • http://www.in-n-outnba.blogspot Lucas

    It amazes me how far they have came, great read man.

  • Terrence

    This is a well-written article. I’ll be reading this magazine more often!

  • Krayzie

    No mention of Derek Anderson???????????

  • Guitar Hero

    man, i miss the jail blazers.
    i’d kill (or maim) for a jail blazers documentary.

  • That’s whats up

    @post 14

    This ain’t 1989 – this is 2009

    you must be high

  • steven

    & Ekstor,

    I lived in Portland for 8 years and saw many many Blazers’ games. The city was in an uproar ’cause of the Kobe advertisement. Kobe was sponsored by Adidas at the time and they had headquaters in Portland. Eventually, Adidas took the billboard down, but lots of people went out and bought those yellow and black Kobes anyway.

    Also, Dime, how could you leave out Issiah Rider getting caught smoking week out of a Coke can?

  • Nyeme

    They were probably the deepest team ever assembled. Not deep with roleplayers either, but they had legitimate stars/starters coming off their bench. Tenure of Jailblazers

    Sheed, Sabonis, Damon, Pippen, Steve Smith, Jimmy Jackson, Wells, Self-Proclaimed Kobe-Stopper, Derek Anderson, Brian Grant, Dale Davis, J. O’Neal, Zach Randolph, J.R. Rider, Chris Dudley, Kenny Anderson, Kemp..

    @sh!tface – I was crackin up when they drafted Charles OUTLAW…I said their PR Team really pissed off now. LOL

  • IP

    Add Ha Seung Jin and Nedzad Sinanovic to the Jailblazers team. Practice turned into pinata swings at teammates.

  • Joseph

    @The Cynic: that was Damon. The cops went into his house because his alarm was going off and the door was open – and found his rather substantial personal stash.

    @Nyeme: the Blazers didn’t draft Charles Outlaw. The guy who they drafted in ’03 is named Travis.

  • gilford22

    I think Nate Mcmillan is the reason of their success right now. He’s a great coach but I don’t think he’s given enough credit for the job he’s done to this team. I think if he leaves this team, Portland will be lucky enough to land a playoff spot.

  • stephon

    Very well written article. I been reading dime since hoopstv days.
    This is the best article yet. Simple but real nice. ‘Can’t stop sabonis’s hook’ lol.

    Some commenters forgot to mention Dale davis and Brian grant.

    B. Grant did a decent job tryin hold down shaq daddy, even thi shaq
    was still dominating them.

    To nyeme: thanks for posting all the players. Damm I didn’t even reallize they were that deep. Absolutely no idea how the GM managed to get all of them. That’s gota be the most stacked team in the last 20 yrs in terms of talent alone.

    To celts fan: I cracked up when u brougt up Quyntel woods. I totally re all he got pulled over and didn’t have ID on him. then hw gave the officer his rookie card as proof. Friggin hilarious shit.

    I was so disaapointed when. Jail blazers blew their huge lead in game 7 western conf finals vs lakers. It woulda been a crazy ass finals team.

  • flegman

    funniest team in league history

  • KnicksFan84

    Blazers were the “hood” franchise. I’d ride out with them in any league any day. Reminds me of intra-mural basketball in college.