A PRESIDENTIAL GUESTIn the fall of 1974, the nation was convalescing from the wounds of Vietnam and Watergate, while adjusting to a new president, Gerald Ford. Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association was beginning its 28th year, oblivious to the political temperatures outside its buildings. So when President Ford came to Portland Nov. 1, 1974, to stump for Republican political candidates in the general election, not too many Trail Blazer players were paying attention. That was to change the night the Blazers played the Buffalo Braves and the president of the United States decided to attend. By basketball standards, this wasn't an extraordinary game. The Blazers, with some late-game heroics, won it, 113-106.
A former football player at Michigan, Ford liked spectator sports and while he wasn't an autograph-seeking fan, he told aides that he was interested in seeing Bill Walton play. And like most politicians, he clearly knew which team to root for. Several times during the game, Ford showed emotional reactions when calls went against the Blazers. In those days, Walton was not a great fan of the political establishment and certainly not the Republican Party. Nevertheless, he acknowledged to writers after the game that seeing the president of the United States sitting behind the Blazers' bench invoked a surreal feeling.
Wicks, Portland's leading scorer with 27 points, was one of the few Blazers who wasn't especially pleased by Ford's visit. "It's a heavy trip to see these FBI guys come in and push people around," Wicks said, "But it didn't bother me. I've seen Presidents before."
While Blazers' players kept their cool under the pressure of playing before the President, the Blazers' statistician apparently didn't. He came up two field goals short during the time in which Ford and his party were sitting directly behind him.
Get a quote today to get a Limited-edition "Little Different Moment in Trail Blazers History" poster.
Presented by PEMCO Insurance, We're a lot like you. A Little Different.