1977 Title Team - Lionel Hollins Interview

trailblazers.com caught up with Lionel Hollins, the starting guard on the 1976-77 Title Team, to reminisce about that unforgettable season.

What were your thoughts on the team's prospects going into the season?
Lionel Hollins: We thought we had upgraded our talent with the NBA/ABA Merger Dispersal Draft, we added some very good players: Maurice Lucas, Dave Twardzik, Moses Malone (later traded to Buffalo), Corky Calhoun, Herm Gilliam, Robin Jones, Wally Walker, and Johnny Davis. We hired future Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay away from the Buffalo Braves to blend with new players with the old nucleus of Bill Walton, Bobby Gross, Lloyd Neal, Larry Steele and myself. We were looking at ourselves as a potential play-off team. Dr. Jack thought we were even better. That we could do damage in the play-offs.

What was your favorite moment from the season?
Lionel Hollins: The euphoria of winning the final game and knowing we were the best of the best at that moment. All the hard work and sacrifice had been rewarded with the ultimate prize: “World Champions”. A title that could never be taken away.

How did the fans and Blazermania as a whole affect you?
Lionel Hollins: Blazermania was overwhelming (both a blessing and a curse). Our lives and that of the city, was transformed overnight. We were the darlings of the city. We belonged to the city of Portland, our lives were no longer our own. We became larger than life, fame only known to rock stars at that time. We could not go in public unnoticed. People followed me home and tailed me at the grocery store to see what I put in my shopping cart. People wanted to know everything about our personal lives. Sellout crowds abounded to last even after most of us retired from the NBA. Even today, I am still recognized and remembered. I love the people and city of Portland and I’ll always cherish those moments.

What was the most amusing moment?
Lionel Hollins: There were many humorous moments. One incident involved Dr. Jack (Ramsay) and Maurice Lucas. Dr. Jack was a stickler for fitness and he wanted us to focus while stretching. Luke (Maurice Lucas) and Bill (Walton) liked to talk – Dr. Jack asked them to be quiet during stretching and Luke responded by saying: “Jack Lalanne talks on TV while stretching.” That ended the conversation between coach and player and everyone broke out laughing.