"The Blazers had never had a winning record. The team was the youngest in the NBA and the least experienced. The head coach was new. No one had them on the playoff radar when the season began," notes Portland Trail Blazers broadcast legend Bill Schonely in the forward to Blazers of Glory, The Oregonian/OregonLive's new hard-bound book commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Blazers' first and only NBA Championship.
Coach "Dr. Jack" Ramsay paired his bruising frontcourt of a finally healthy(ish) Bill Walton and former ABA enforcer Maurice Lucas with an athletic second-year guard in Lionel Hollins and a roster full of selfless players. The young team bought into Ramsay's system and schemes, creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
The Blazers took down the Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets in the playoffs before sweeping aside the mighty Los Angeles Lakers and MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Western Conference Finals, but they suddenly seemed outclassed and star-struck upon heading to Philadelphia and stepping toe-to-toe with the 76ers and their cavalcade of All-Stars, including Doug Collins, George McGinnis, and Julius Erving.
During the game two loss that would put them in an 0-2 hole, the teams engaged in a skirmish that famously resulted in Lucas and his massive counterpart Darryl Dawkins raising fists and squaring off at center court, an oft-cited turning point of the series. Back in Portland, the Blazers mopped the Memorial Coliseum floor with the Sixers' stars to even the series, then just kept winning.
Blazermania was born as Rip City won its first NBA Championship.
The Oregonian/OregonLive's new book is stuffed full of stunning photography and amazing stories from the magical 1976-1977 season, plus additional features on the four decades of Blazers basketball that have built upon the spirit and legacy of '77.