Words from a Storyteller


May 04

Summer League Memories

By Storyteller Posted in: BrandonRoy, GregOden, LaMarcusAldridge
23 years.  That's how long I had been living outside of Oregon before I moved back to the Portland area last year.  During that time, living in Southern California and in Las Vegas, I often found it difficult at times to be a long-distance fan of the Blazers, but I was able to satisfy a little of my basketball fix by attending several Summer Leagues. 

I find it sad that the current labor situation in the NBA might threaten the very existence of Summer League this July, so, to try to fill the possible void, and in the spirit of my nickname of Storyteller, let me tell you a few stories my experiences at Summer Leagues of years past....

It was the summer of 1994 and I was invited by my good friend to go to the campus of UC Irvine to watch a day's worth of Summer League games.  Honestly, most of the participants were guys I had never heard of and would never make an NBA roster, but I really enjoyed being able to sit in the front row of the arena and watch these guys play ball.  The highlight, though, was having Mark Jackson talk to my friend and I while Lamond Murray was shooting free throws.  He told us that Tracy Murray was 'dogging it' for not playing that particular day, and when my friend asked if he was happy to be leaving the Clippers for the Pacers, Jackson replied, "Does a pig like slop?" and then ran off down the court for a fast break....

My next Summer League experience was attending games in 2001 at the campus of Cal State Long Beach.  I got to see Maurice Cheeks call his first game as coach of the Blazers and Zach Randolph's first game in a Blazer uniform.  I also was able to sit with a group of aspiring NBA referees (most were WNBA refs or NCAA refs) and talk with them about what I want to see from refs as an NBA fan.  They introduced me to Bob Lanier, who was sitting 2 rows behind us, which was a great thrill.  But my proudest moment probably came as I walked next to a man talking loudly on his cell phone, saying, "OK, Hakeem, I'll talk with Glen Grunwald again and see what offer he comes up with."  I was so excited!  I had inside information on the final destination of free agent Hakeem Olajuwon!  I went home that night and posted on a couple of Toronto internet boards - and got nothing but comments in return telling me that they didn't believe me.  A week later, Olajuwon was a Raptor via sign and trade.....

The 2002 Summer League at CSLB was fairly bland on the court and uneventful off the court.  I did see a 2nd round pick for Golden State name Gilbert Arenas play better than anyone else, though....

During the 2003 Summer League, I discovered that I was sitting next to Mark Madsen's mother, who told me some things about Laker GM Mitch Kupchak and a lack of integrity in his verbal promises.....

I got to see Martell Webster, Sebastian Telfair and Travis Outlaw at the 2005 Summer League.  What?  They're not Blazers any longer?  Oh, okay.....but I did get to see Dwight Howard play live and said of him at the time, "He's a combination of Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett, and looks bigger (more muscular) than I remember from seeing him on television this last year. Watch out for this guy, he's going to be a star if not a superstar."

Highlights from the 2006 Summer League included seeing Brandon Roy destroy Randy Foye on the court, seeing LaMarcus Aldridge show glimpses of his promise and seeing Danny Ainge at the urinal next to mine in the Men's room [am I allowed to say 'urinal'?]...

The 2007 Summer League was something special.  Oden and Aldridge together?  It was an awesome sight.  Ah, so much promise in those days.....Also, I remember sitting with a group of Blazer season ticket holders watching one of the Blazer games and having Mike Rice join us for the second half.  He was informative, friendly, opinionated, and when he yelled out, "The Oregonian is a terrible newspaper!" as Jason Quick walked in front of us, he gave me one of the great laughs of my life as I saw Jason look into the stands and respond with a classic roll of the eyes....

I will always remember one moment from the 2008 Summer League.  I was walking in the hallway between games and noticed that Maurice Lucas was walking next to me - after all, how could I miss him?  I said a few words to him sharing my appreciation for all his efforts with the Blazers, and he promised to "work the young guys hard".  Rest in Peace, Luke.....Jerryd Bayless was the star of the team that year with his ability to get to the rim at will.  Too bad he never had that same impact consistently for the Blazers.  Proving that success at Summer League doesn't always equate to future NBA success.  After all, I once saw Bo Outlaw score 40 points in a Summer League game, and he didn't exactly become league MVP either....

I remember 2009 for being able to sit right behind Johnny Flynn and Stephen Curry one game,  for watching a game with Jonas Jerebko's uncle, for laughing as Ric Bucher literally ran up the stadium stairs to try to get a comment from Kevin Pritchard after a game, and for getting to meet super fan Blazer Wookee face to beard.....

Yeah, I could probably go on for pages, but I won't.  Suffice to say that Summer League has produced a boatload of wonderful memories for me, and it will be sad indeed if it doesn't happen this year.  Let's all hope and pray that labor negotiations don't take Summer League away from us fans!


  1. Fingers crossed. I need my yearly Vegas vacation!

    by caseyholdahl on 5/16/2011 8:37 AM
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