Oct 27

Make Time For Fast Break

By caseyholdahl

Last night, the Hollywood Theater on 42nd and Sandy hosted a one night showing of Fast Break, the 1978 documentary focused on the individual players and personalities who helped the Trail Blazers win their only NBA World Championship. If you didn't make the show last night or have yet to see Fast Break, you're doing yourself a disservice.

What I like most about Fast Break is that it really isn't about basketball or the Trail Blazers. I mean, you're likely to enjoy the film more if you're a fan of the sport and the team, but fandom is in no way a prerequisite for enjoying Don Zavin's profile of late-1970's Portland.

Part of that is due to the differences between today's professional athletes, whose lives seemingly revolve around the sport they play, and the pros yesteryear, who were afforded the luxury of having a life outside of athletics. Having spent a fair amount of time with professional basketball players, I can say with some authority that their lives outside of basketball are, well, kind of boring. The reason for this? My guess is it has something to do with the notion that to be a professional athlete in this day and age, you basically have to focus on that one endeavor to the detriment of everything else in your life. In the 70's? Doesn't seem like that was necessarily the case, and it shows throughout Fast Break (for instance, Corky Calhoun, while taking a soak with Maurice Lucas, talks of having completed the requirements necessary to be a realtor in California).

Larry Colton, who acts as something of a tour guide for the movie, spends time with most of the players individually, but the bulk of the movie revolves around a young Bill Walton, who a few months before led the Trail Blazers past Dr. J and the Sixers in the 1977 NBA Finals. Walton's bike ride along the Oregon coast, with Colton trying to keep up, provides a constant for the film to rely on in between shorter vignettes focusing on Walton's teammates. Along the way, Walton and Colton stop to talk about life, pick blackberries and eat copious amounts of breakfast foods in roadside dinners. The crew also follows Walton to a basketball camp on a native American reservation, which includes some sort of ritual in which Walton is given his "Indian name."

The scenes focusing on Maurice Lucas, while not as psychedelic as the Walton segments, are just as interesting, and probably my favorite of the movie. Lucas being called "The Enforcer" by an inmate during a team trip to the Oregon Penitentiary (can you imagine such a thing in this day and age?) has got to be one of the most legitimate validations of his toughness, not that he ever needed it.

Simply put, Fast Break is easily one of the best sports documentary of all-time.  It stands up to anything ESPN's highly-acclaimed "30 for 30" series produced, and is a must-see for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the franchise. The next time it shows somewhere in the area, buy a ticket.


  1. The photo you popped on this blog is AMAZING. Love it! Any idea where I can get my hands on a copy of Fast Break? Sounds like a must-see.

    by sarahhecht on 10/27/2011 3:53 PM
  2. I'm not sure. I know a guy who had a DVD, but he loaned to to someone who subsequently lost it. It's cut up into like 12 parts on Youtube, so that's really no way to watch it.

    by caseyholdahl on 10/27/2011 3:55 PM
  3. @Casey;

    If i get a chance I will do that.
    I thank you kind Sir.

    by Hg on 10/27/2011 4:05 PM
  4. another disadvantage of living outside of the Rose City; just hope it come out on DVD again (if and when it does can you guys see if it can be sold on the Blazer fan shop page?)

    by blazerdarren77 on 10/27/2011 4:11 PM
  5. having little real knowledge of that team or its players, i'd really like to see that. i'm probably not going to go through the youtube segments you mentioned, but if there were perhaps a dvd my dad could get his hands on, i would love to catch it on my next trip home.

    my dad was a kid growing up in nebraska in the 70s and he remembers following Walton at ucla and then with the blazers. i'm sure he'd get a kick out of that too.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 10/27/2011 7:37 PM
  6. I'll go ahead and watch it on YouTube because I dont have anything else to do with my morning.

    by Cristi on 10/28/2011 7:57 AM
  7. Is that how Lucas got the nickname "The Enforcer?" From an inmate? If so, that's awesome. As a huge fan, I feel weird not knowing of this movie's existence prior to a few days ago. Definitely sounds worthy of a watch.

    by DHawes22 on 10/28/2011 8:38 AM
  8. Thanks to our friend Sarah Moon, we now know you get a copy of the Fast Break DVD if you purchase a copy of Red Hot and Rollin'. They have 2 copy's left at Powells, and it's only $20! I might be grabbing one of those:

    by caseyholdahl on 10/28/2011 8:42 AM
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