Our basketball columnist ventures to Portland.
In the beginning, also known as last week, I welcomed you to my ebullient but off-kilter basketball life. We were in Brooklyn, watching a Nets game—an unlikely place to begin, as a Manhattan resident and Knicks fan. Just as unlikely was the cross-country flight I took last week, bound for Portland, Oregon. I flew in on a Thursday morning because I wanted to see, finally, the Portland Trail Blazers play on their home court, known now as the Moda Center. I’m still going to call it by its glorious former moniker, the Rose Garden. It was an inevitable outcome: a beautiful name erased by an insurance company.
Once I knew the Blazers would be in Portland when I was, I didn’t hesitate to get tickets. Really good tickets. I yearned for that contact high I’d spent my entire life hearing happens in Portland. I’d tried Barclays Center—that sanitized, bank-named, eminent-domained, half-empty pod of steel Frank Gehry dreamed up for developers to drop in the middle of Brooklyn—but I never liked New Coke. I needed a shot of real basketball excitement. The Rose Garden would have spirit–a kind of saucy, sustained legacy that’s difficult to associate with today’s style of fandom. A strange potion runs through the basketball blood of Portland. It’s stayed hot from the days of games at the Memorial Coliseum, where the Blazers played from their inception in 1970 until 1995. On April 8, 1977, the Blazers beat the Phoenix Suns 122 to 111 in front of a sellout crowd and went on to enjoy another 813 consecutive sellouts, making theirs, until recently, the longest sellout streak ever by a major U.S. sports team. Six and a half years earlier, the Blazers had played their first-ever regular season game, a 115 to 112 win over Cleveland in front of only 4,273 fans. Read More