At 2:18 pm Pacific Standard Time on June 5th, 1977, pandemonium erupted across the Pacific Northwest after Philadelphia’s last ditch effort rimmed short, giving the Trail Blazers a 109-107 victory in Game 6 to become the first and only squad from Rip City to be crowned champions. Within seconds of the final whistle sounding and the clock striking triple zero, the 12,666 fans in attendance at Veterans Memorial Coliseum rushed the floor. The thousands of people in Portland packed the city’s streets. And the millions listening worldwide as Bill Schonely verbally illustrated the game’s final, intense moments as if you were sitting in the front row exploded with joy. The Trail Blazers had done it! Portland was now officially on the map. And the man with a bird’s eye view, Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Bill Schonely relived it all.
"Yeah, that was a special time,” Schonely thought back. “The crowd erupted when George McGinnis took that shot from the left corner and it didn't go in. And the Blazers won the game and they were the World Champions. They were number ONE! That means a great deal. That was terrific."
And here we were, 35 years later at the Oregon Historical Society celebrating the organization’s biggest accomplishment and honoring one of the most recognizable and legendary voices in radio broadcasting, the man of the hour, Mr. Bill Schonely, who still remembers that day in 1977 very fondly.
"But this day, June the 5th of 1977, just means so much. Not only to me but to the team, to the community, to the state, because something good happened at the right time for the great state of Oregon, and Northern California, and Washington state,” recalled Schonely. “And people have never forgot. It was a joyous, joyous time. And it hasn't happened since then. So, this is a very special time, I'm glad to be apart of it and I thank the Oregon Historical Society for thinking of us all and having this wonderful night."
As the Schonz so eloquently put it, June 5th, 1977 did mean the world to anyone associated with the Trail Blazers, but there was more to be celebrated than the banner that is now currently hanging in the rafters of the Rose Garden. June 5, 2012 was a night we all got to celebrate one of the most prestigious and storied careers in broadcasting history. Thanks in large part to the Oregon Historical Society; An Evening With The Schonz brought together fans from all spectrums to honor the Mayor of Rip City, Bill Schonely.
Members from all eras of Trail Blazers basketball were on hand to join the Schonz in honoring his legacy as well as the championship team from 1977, such as the team’s first President, Harry Glickman, a member of the inaugural Trail Blazers team in 1970, Dale Schlueter, the man in the middle during the mid-90’s, Chris Dudley, and the “glue” to that title run, small forward Bobby Gross.
Although it’s been 30 years since he’s played in front of the BlazerManiacs inside the Glass Palace, Gross stays in very close contact with Schonely, which goes to show the strong, long-lasting relationships Bill has built throughout his tenure in Portland.
"Bill's my adopted father. He's the Governor of Portland. He's it,” said Gross. “Of all the guys, maybe other than Bill Walton, he's the most recognizable. He's got a voice that everybody knows. He just can't go anywhere without being recognized and being brought back to that moment, because everybody wants to talk about that moment. I told him tonight that it doesn't happen that often to me. He says, 'Well, it seems like yesterday to me.' And that's because he hears it all the time. But he's a wonderful guy, very generous. I like to spend time with him when I can. I see him a lot during the season. I hope he's feeling it tonight and just enjoys it."
Asked where this night ranked among the plethora of awards, achievements and milestones he’s accumulated over the years, Schonely seemed almost at a loss for words for a second, but after collecting his thoughts, he responded the only way he knew how: gracefully.
"Well...It's very, very gratifying . I don't know how to answer that. Other than I'm very grateful,” added Schonely. “I'm just a worker. I tried to do the best I could for the community, and the team, all the folks all over. And then to have a period of time to have some of these things happen, the Hall of Fame and the rest of it...I don't know how to explain it. It's terrific."
I told him how I grew up on his radio calls, listening to him describe the acrobatic moves of Clyde Drexler, the arc on Terry Porter’s attempts from the rainbow, the yeoman’s work of Buck Williams down low in the post, and the exhilarating fast-break finishes of Jerome Kersey. How I get all of my blog titles from his “Schonzisms” (Bingo, Bango, Bongo, anyone?). How he played a large role in my childhood as a Trail Blazers fan. When I asked him to digest all of that and what it meant for him to have each and every one of his sayings identified not only with Portland Trail Blazers basketball but with the city of Portland, and to an extent, the entire state of Oregon, Schonz said he wasn’t thinking of his own catch phrases for personal attainment but to gain better exposure for the franchise as a whole.
"That means a great deal. I tried to come up with a lot of those phrases that would be synonymous not only with my broadcast but as far as the Blazer team was concerned in the early days and until right now,” replied Schonely. “And the big one, of course, turned out to be Rip City. That all started in Nineteen Hundred and Seventy. It took a little while for everyone to get involved but now, wherever you go, around the country, in professional basketball, or basketball now, Portland is known as Rip City. Now, I had no idea that was going to happen, but it has. That's sensational."
I followed that up by asking him if Rip City was his favorite, but just like a kid with all of his toys, he couldn’t pick just one.
"Rip City, yeah. I liked a lot of them...Lickety Brindle Up The Middle, The Cyclopes, Bingo, Bango, Bongo…we could go on and on,” added Schonely. “I loved them all."
In the end, Schonely simply stated, "I just tried to paint the picture of the event I'm witnessing at that specific time."
But he did so much more. And during gatherings such as the one held at the Oregon Historical Society on June the 5th, 2012, hopefully he understands that his impact goes beyond anything he could possibly imagine.
Will we ever hear his legendary voice back on the radio broadcast again?
"Well, if they ask me, I would be happy to do that,” said Schonely. “But it’s the time for Wheels to do his broadcast and all the rest of it. I did mine. I'm just very pleased and happy that I'm still involved. This is my 42nd year. I am the only guy  that was on the active payroll in 1970 and on the active payroll today."
Even if we don’t see the Schonz in the broadcast booth anytime soon, you better believe he still wants to be apart of another parade down Broadway and is as emotionally invested in the team as you or I.
"I certainly hope so, as much as I get out and about. I've got a ring from that team and that day which I'm very proud of. So, after a period of time, I tell folks and show them the ring, and I say 'I want to stick around until they get another one!' Well, they better hurry up!"
Photo Gallery:An Evening With The Schonz