By ShalamarClark Posted in: AndreMiller, Blazers, BrandonRoy, geraldwallace, LaMarcusAldridge, MarcusCamby, Mavericks, NicolasBatum, PattyMills, RudyFernandez, WesleyMatthews
“We’re all behind you.”
That was my tweet to the team Thursday morning before the Portland Trail Blazers played their last home game of the 2010-11 season.
As a reporter, I’ve been privileged in many ways, and sometimes even spoiled. I’ve represented the organization and helped the community through Make It Better
events, I’ve had the best seats of my life in the Rose Garden, sitting press row in section 207 many times to observe the game and also the people, and I’ve worn the Trail Blazers’ badge that has granted me access to practices, past the locker room doors and into the lives of players.
It’s a sweet fantasy for any sports lover. And a dream turned reality of mine.
But in Thursday night’s 103-96 elimination
to the Dallas Mavericks, I got to spend the last game of the postseason the best way possible–as a fan.
I came decorated in all my Trail Blazer apparel. I wore my rookie polo I received at the start of the season, a matching snapback ball cap and badge. For my girlfriend, she sported Andre Miller's 632 ironman t-shirt that honored his incredible playing streak. But most importantly, she came with a sign inspired by Patty Mills’ tweet hours before the game:
Family, it’s the most precious asset in life.
It’s a word that LaMarcus Aldridge describes as a special bond, when a group of people get together for “one cause and one goal.”
A family can be a motivator. It can be a support system to uplift a team through a tough time. It can be a symbol of power, strength and unity. Since Dec. 21, 2007, the Trail Blazers have sold out 159 consecutive games at the Rose Garden thanks to their family members–you the fans.
“There are a whole bunch of little incidents and situations that really brought us together as a team, as well as the fans,” said Mills. “Twitter has been one thing. The stuff that we put on Twitter like, ‘More than teammates’ and ‘FANmily,’ it’s something little that brings us together and connects us to the fans.”
It’s been a deep connection that Brandon Roy, who has fought many odd this season, fading from the starlight due knee injuries, has come to endear.
“It’s something that nobody outside of it can break,” said Roy. “We’re like family. We spend more time with each other than we do with our own families so we’re more than just teammates.”
The fans feel the same way. Watching from section 306, there’s nothing like being surrounded by a crowd of strangers all cheering for that same goal. They come from all distances, some local and some far away. But together, we believe in this team.
We believe in Aldridge’s new rise to leadership, we believe in Roy’s superhuman comeback, we believe in the new edgy guy Gerald Wallace, who has brought a toughness to the team, we believe in Wesley Matthews and Rudy Fernandez’s three goggles, we believe in the hard work and hustle from Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby, and we all believe in the future.
“I was definitely moved by it,” said Roy of the fan support. “Neighbors and people wrote me letters…saying ‘I appreciate you’ and ‘I love Brandon Roy.’ That was good for me because we harp on the negative. I kind of needed some positive to shine on me…so it made me feel good and appreciated.”
“This year my leadership skills got a lot better,” said Aldridge. “I’ve become more of a vocal guy and I talk more and express my feeling out on the court more.”
Next year, Aldridge already plans to improve on all the success he has earned throughout the season. “Just taking it to the next level next year and even being more vocal,” he said.
It’s commonly said that the Rose Garden is one of the best place to play if you’re an NBA player. I would say 50 percent of the credit should go to each individual "Sixth Man" that helps fill the arena time after time.
“We can’t thank them hard enough,” said Mills. “We wouldn’t be half the team without all these fans so we really appreciate it.”
Only one team sits above Portland (20,510) with a larger average attendance this season, and that’s Chicago. Yes, the support the Trail Blazers receive is greater than your large-market teams like the Mavericks, Heat, Knicks and Lakers.
Portland may never be consider a big-market team, but experience what I’ve gotten to over an 88-game stretch and tell me Blazer Nation is not immeasurable in two areas: Heart and passion.
“It’s what we’re about,” said Matthews. “We're more than teammates. We sacrifice for each other, lay it out on the line and play for each other.”
So from courtside all the way up to the 300 levels, we’ve marched together down this road. It’s been a great season. And it’s a trip that I will ALWAYS remember thanks to all of you.
“I always say they’re the best fans in the world,” said Roy, “but they really proved it.”