In 1977 I witnessed legendary basketball coach Jack Ramsay do the impossible. He made the sun shine for about 200 days in a row in Portland, Oregon.
Prior to that year we Portland Trail Blazer fans didn’t even consider having expectations for our team. Heck, we were happy to just have a team. Whether it was attending a game or watching one on television, it gave us something to do and a reason to stay inside and out of the rain between Halloween and our city’s annual Rose Festival.
When the season began people were talking more about Ramsay’s wardrobe than they were about the Trail Blazers winning. His loud colored pants and jackets seemed to contradict the man at first. We squinted at his clothing but were wide-eyed as we watched his controlled intensity produce results on the basketball court.
With the team continuing to win, however, things changed. Life actually got a little bit brighter in Portland. The season continued and more and more people started to enjoy the team’s success. In turn, people had something positive to experience and share with others around them. It became such a phenomenon that people who didn’t even like basketball were now liking basketball. My own father, who I understood to only believe in football and baseball, became a basketball fan of Jack Ramsay’s Portland Trail Blazers.
For the first time in my life I had a sense of what a community coming together looked and felt like. Having had the privilege of being a member of that community, I suggest that the days during the playoff run, the championship, and the celebrations afterward were among the brightest the city of Portland has ever known. All thanks to Jack Ramsay and his brand of basketball.
Yes, Ramsay had a successful career in basketball before and after the days he spent in Portland. But deep down in our basketball hearts he belongs to us Portland fans, thanks to that special season many years ago.
Now, the sun has set for Jack and most probably won’t shine as bright for those closest to him for a while. So it seems important and appropriate for all of us who enjoyed that 1977 season of sunshine in Portland to say thank you to Jack Ramsay one last time.