Remembering The 2000 Portland Trail Blazers

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Remembering The 2000 Portland Trail Blazers
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
1999-2000 Blazers (59-23)
Steve Smith (1 All-Star appearance)
Scottie Pippen (7 All-Star appearances)
Rasheed Wallace (4 All-Star appearances)
Detlef Schrempf (3 All-Star appearances)
Jermaine O’Neal (6 All-Star appearances but all after leaving Portland)
Damon Stoudamire
Arvydas Sabonis
Greg Anthony
Briant Grant
Bonzi Wells (before he went crazy)

The players named above are not players I selected for my fantasy team, nor are they a team I built in NBA Live or NBA 2K and no they are not an All-Star team. That my fellow readers is the core of the 1999-2000 Portland Trail Blazers. Mind you, the year before the roster was a little different; it had the likes of Isaiah Rider, Walt Williams and Jim Jackson which helped the Blazers dispatch the Utah Jazz in the playoffs. However, they were soundly defeated by a more cohesive San Antonio Spurs team; so they decided to bring in Steve Smith and Scottie Pippen at the expense of the players previously named, and move Rasheed Wallace back to power forward (he played the whole 1998-1999 season as a small forward). With such big pieces added to the team, critics argued that a team loaded with so many former and potential All-Stars would have too many egos to function and eventually self-destruct like Deathrow Records, with Rasheed playing the part of Suge Knight and Bonzi Wells the role of Tupac. However, these same critics had underestimated Pippen’s leadership skills and his ability to get every one on the same page (I was having this conversation the other day with my boy Karim, and Scottie Pippen one of the best small forward we have ever seen play; picture Magic’s leadership, Shawn Marion’s rebounding ability, Penny’s handle, Lebron’s court vision, Battier’s ability to defend anyone on the court and J.R. Smith’s reckless abandon when attacking the basket). Scottie Pippen took Rasheed Wallace and turned him into my second favorite power forward of all time in that one season; I mean Sheed punished dudes in the low block with his turnaround jumper and his footwork that every now and then got him straight to the rim for vicious dunks; have a look at the video evidence below.

In the 1999-2000 season, it was obvious at least to me that the Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers would meet up in the playoffs and give us a great series. That season gave us a highly motivated Shaq at his dominant peak in the NBA and an up and coming star in the name of Kobe Bryant who was beginning to figure out just how good he was and when to turn on that switch (basically in the fourth quarter). Phil Jackson had managed to implant his Triangle Offense and get the Diesel to coexist with the Boy Wonder to the tune of a regular season record of 67-15. O’Neal won his first and only MVP award (Fun fact:Kobe and Shaq have the same amount of MVP trophies) and led the Lakers in points, rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage, quotes, ridiculous quotes, club appearances, jokes and player “disses” (that’s one stat he still leads the league in):
Shaq disses Vlade Divac

From this year, how does it really taste?

The Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers met in the 1999-2000 Western Conference Finals with every one giving the edge to the Lakers because of a dominant Shaquille O’Neal and closer named Kobe Bryant. The consensus what that Portland’s nucleus would not be able to rely on a team structure with so many talented players to advance, whereas Los Angeles’ role players knew how to fall in place and just follow the lead of their stars. Both teams gave it their best shot, a series of punches and counter-punches culminating in an epic Game 7 that everyone who saw not only remembers, but also recall where they were when it occurred. For my part, I was in my aunt’s basement watching the game with Superstar and we could not be bothered by anything happening in the real world at the time. Keep in mind, Superstar was 24 while I was 20 and no phone call, email, text message or even hot girl at the door could have gotten us to move from our seats; hell, once the game was over and we became reacquainted with society, people had wondered where we had been for that two and half hours and why we were somewhat perplexed. Now before touching on the specifics about the game, it’s important that I point towards the dynamics of the game in the basketball world. In general, NBA fans tend to be separated into two factions: NBA fans that want to enjoy the game itself regardless of who is playing and Laker fans, who tend to be front runners who only make it out to games when the team is winning (a lot of bandwagon Laker fans out there) and would defend Kobe Bryant even if he did the things that OJ and Jacko were acuused of. As a result, other NBA fans have grown to hate the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans more then men hate when their better halves blurt out the words "we need to talk". I myself had no ill feelings towards the Lakers, I was happy to watch great basketball but I had fallen in love with this Blazers team, I mean people tend to forget but this team had it all: combustible personalities, style, attitude, potheads and guys you did not want to mess with; but best of all, they were all imperfect together as a team thus making them a strong unit (think of the 2004 Detroit Pistons that won the title) that relied on one another instead of relying on two superstars to carry them home (the other part of that is people loved to hate Kobe, I mean my brother Qwest hates Kobe to this day for no apparent reason; you would think Bryant borrowed money from him and never paid him back). So needless to say, the world was hoping to see Portland in the NBA Finals at the expense of Los Angeles.

When Game 7 started, there was no doubt in my mind that the Blazers were going to do the impossible and win the game in Hollywood thanks in large part to Scottie Pippen’s experience and mental toughness. Through three quarters, my thoughts seemed prophetic; the Blazers had a 14 point lead entering the 4th quarter and Rasheed Wallace looked like best player in the NBA as he tortured AC Green and Robert Horry to the tune of 30 hard earned points. The Blazers had held the Lakers to 58 points going into the final period where it seemed apparent to me that Portland was headed to the Finals. However, the Lakers’ offense came alive in the final period while the Blazers kept missing shot after shot while the Laker fans who had been quiet most of the game became a raucous crowd as the home team came from behind to take the lead. With the game hanging in the balance, Kobe crossed Pippen from right to left and threw up what seemed like a tear drop but actually ended up being a fabulous lob pass to Shaq for a dunk which ended up being the duo’s signature play that did not involve cops, a tape recorder or a live performance on stage that rivaled Tupac’s “Hit’em up”.
Alley Oop

Phil Jackson has this saying that the journey is as important if not more then the actual destination, thus placing all emphasis on the present and dealing with the future when it becomes the present. This line of thinking helped get his club out of a tough hole (one would think Phil Jackson was Michael Jackson --yes the other MJ—life coach; how else do you explain the surgeries and the court cases) and eventually turned them into champions. Every now and then, ESPN Classic or NBA TV broadcasts that game on TV, if you ever have a chance to catch it; I strongly suggest you do; to this day, most people still do not understand how the Blazers lost that game. They went from being in complete control of Game 7 to self-destructing in the most important moment of the season and it is still unexplainable. That being said, this team will probably be remembered for a long time, but it will be for the wrong reasons kind of like Frederic Weis.

Last 6 mins of 4th quarter

Last 2 mins of 4th quarter

End of 4th quarter

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