Oct 14

Defining Fandom, The Buzzer-Beater: Billy Ray Bates’ Acrobatics Push By Philly In Final Second

By sarahhecht Posted in: billyraybates
Dissecting the anatomy of NBA fandom is a difficult task. Lacking a cut-and-dry definition of a what a fan is means the underlying causes of the intense passion one feels for a sports team are impossible to pinpoint as well. Rather than labeling fandom with a single moniker or limiting it’s description we should consider the “definition” to be an amalgam of reasons similar among all but with variations for each individual.

That said, what are some of the basketball moments that define your fandom? Moments that leave you feeling reinvigorated with passion and thinking, ‘THIS is why I love this game.’

Is it the hope of a championship? Deep playoff runs? Come-from-behind wins? A mind-boggling slam dunk? A nearly impossible alley-oop? Nailing clutch free throws down the stretch?

Or is it the buzzer-beater? I’m not talking the crazy half-court shot before halftime or the random launch to end a game you’re sure to lose. I mean the last second, heroic attempt to win a game or send it into overtime. The shot that rips you out of your seat and has you high-fiving strangers and kissing babies. Yeah, that’s definitely one of them for me.

This tale is of none other than Billy Ray Bates. Coming from a rough background, Bates joined a struggling Portland squad in February of 1980. His run-and-gun style quickly won the hearts of Trail Bazers fans as he pushed the team to the post season.

Though Bates’ time in a Trail Blazers uniform was limited to two and a half seasons, there’s no doubt the acrobatic character made his mark. According to Bill Schonely, “If you asked the fans and those of us who were around when Billy Ray Bates played here, he turned out to be probably, THE most popular player that the Blazers ever had. To this day, fans say ‘What we need is Billy Ray Bates!’ He could play, but he had a tough past.”

And on December 30, 1980 Bates was the Trail Blazer who put up what just may be the most memorable buzzer-beater in team history.


“Bates is probably best remembered for one game, on December 30, 1980, and for one second, which is heralded today by Blazer fans as the most magical second in team history: Bates soars high on the baseline to take an inbounds pass from Kermit Washington. He catches the the ball at waist level, spins in the air, and banks home the game-winning shot as the buzzer sounds. No dunk, just a layup that softly kills a really great Philadelphia 76ers team. And the Blazers did it on an out-of bounds play from midcourt, with just one second on the clock.”

Watch for yourself. And survey the crowd reaction. It’s pure bliss in the stands and fandom at it’s best.

So there you have it. A drool-worthy buzzer-beater. Kind of makes your throat tighten up, doesn’t it? Much like a relationship, fandom takes work. And it’s little moments like these that rekindle the flame.

What’s the pinnacle of fandom for you? Those moments that you can’t help but smile. What keeps you coming back?

Craving more Billy Ray Bates photos? Check them out here.


  1. This game brings back a memory that's for sure! Of course back in those days there was no regular season home games on TV, so the great "SCHONZ" would give his perfect description of the games. Well I was listening to it with my Mom & Dad and well let's say my Dad gave up and was so angry he left the living room to go outside to have a cigarette, with my Mom saying 'It isn't over yet!' My Dad's response, "Oh yes it is, it's over!" Well of course when he heard my Mom & Dad jumping up and down to Billy Ray's .01 second lob from Kermit Washington he came rushing in missing the "Schonz's" memorable call! A 'priceless' memory to say the least.

    by Ricky Y on 10/14/2011 1:34 PM
  2. So far I've never had that experience of attending a game like that. But when I do, I hope I'm close to you so we can have a 'spontaneous' high-five (or kiss if you don't mind :D )

    by blazerdarren77 on 10/14/2011 2:07 PM
  3. I remember this play like it was yesterday. As a kid, I recited the call. Shame the video cuts off the "they are all over Billy Ray Bates..."

    The radio network also used this clip as part of the lead-in to games for quite a while.

    by RickyRebel on 10/14/2011 2:23 PM
  4. Billy Ray Bates could sure play ball.....

    by mbmurr1 on 10/14/2011 8:59 PM
  5. Too bad he couldn't stay out of trouble. Sad...

    by RickyRebel on 10/15/2011 9:25 AM
  6. One of the most acrobatic plays I've seen. It beats a lot of other alley-oops buzzer-beaters because he caught it and went under the hoop to lay it in. What an athlete. Just wish I was alive to see him in his hey-day.

    by ClydeFrog on 10/24/2011 10:05 AM
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