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INTRODUCTION

Portland Trail Blazers, professional basketball team and one of seven teams in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Trail Blazers play in the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon, and wear jerseys of black, red, and white. The team’s name refers to the travelers of the Oregon Trail, a route used by settlers of the American West. The trail ended near Portland.

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NOTABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS

The Trail Blazers joined the NBA in the 1970-71 season and captured the league title six years later with a team led by center Bill Walton and forward Maurice Lucas. In the early 1990s the Blazers were again among the NBA’s best teams. Powered by guards Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter and forward Buck Williams, the team reached the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992.

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FRANCHISE HISTORY

The Trail Blazers joined the NBA during a league expansion that also included the Buffalo Braves and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The original Portland club featured guard Geoff Petrie and forward LeRoy Ellis; it registered a win-loss record of 29-53. Portland had several talented rookies, and Petrie shared the NBA rookie of the year award with Dave Cowens of the Boston Celtics. Blazers forward Sidney Wicks won the award the following year. After their debut campaign, the Blazers placed near the bottom of the league during their next three seasons. A 27-55 win-loss record in 1973-74 earned the Blazers the number-one selection in the 1974 NBA draft, which the team used to pick Bill Walton, a three-time college player of the year while at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

With Walton at center and former St. Louis Hawks star Lenny Wilkens installed as head coach, the Blazers won 38 games in the 1974-75 season and 37 games the following year. Before the 1976-77 season, former Buffalo Braves coach Jack Ramsay replaced Wilkens. Ramsay brought a disciplined, team-oriented strategy to the club, which had added guard Lionel Hollins in the 1975 NBA draft and power forward Maurice Lucas from the disbanded American Basketball Association (ABA).

In Ramsay’s first season, the Blazers finished with a 49-33 win-loss record. In the playoffs, the Blazers defeated the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, and Los Angeles Lakers to reach the NBA Finals. There the Blazers were considered an underdog against the Philadelphia 76ers, who were led by forward Julius Erving. The Blazers lost the first two games but won the next four contests to capture the franchise’s first title.

In the 1977-78 season, the Trail Blazers logged a 58-24 record and Walton won the league’s most valuable player (MVP) award. In the playoffs, however, Walton was slowed by an injury, and the Blazers lost in the conference semifinals to the Seattle SuperSonics. Walton continued to be plagued by injuries, missing the entire 1978-79 season before joining the San Diego Clippers the following year as a free agent. Portland remained competitive and missed the playoffs only once from 1978-79 through 1985-86.

In the early 1990s, Portland players Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, and Buck Williams helped make the club one of the NBA’s best. Under head coach Rick Adelman, the Blazers won 59 games in the 1989-90 season and in the playoffs advanced to the NBA Finals. There the Blazers lost to the Detroit Pistons. The next season Portland registered 63 wins and advanced to the Western Conference Finals. During the 1991-92 season Portland won 57 games, and in the playoffs the team beat the Lakers, Phoenix Suns, and Utah Jazz before falling to the Chicago Bulls in six games in the NBA Finals.

As the club’s top stars grew older in the mid-1990s, the Trail Blazers’ fortunes declined. Drexler, the franchise’s all-time leader in points, offensive rebounds, and steals, was traded to the Houston Rockets in 1995 as the club began to rebuild its roster. One of the major new additions in 1995 was Arvydas Sabonis, a Lithuanian player who had starred for years in international basketball. Over the next few years he was joined by younger players such as Brian Grant, Damon Stoudamire, and Rasheed Wallace. Before the 1999-2000 season the Trail Blazers traded for Scottie Pippen, considered one of the NBA’s greatest players ever.