Portland Trail Blazers

Just two weeks after Portland was granted an NBA expansion franchise on Feb. 24, 1970, Harry Glickman, then executive vice president of the club, announced a public “name the team” contest. A panel of judges was selected. Harry said boxes and boxes of entries arrived at the team headquarters then located in a storefront office on S.W. Yamhill between 5th and 6th Avenues. “There had to be 10,000 entries at least,” he remembers.

The Trail Blazers name was announced to a crowd of 11,035 during halftime of a March 13 regular season NBA SuperSonics-Knicks contest in the Memorial Coliseum. It was received, according to Oregon Journal Sports Editor George Pasero, with less than enthusiastic response including a spattering of boos. “It really wasn’t very popular when fans first heard it, but of course we all know that changed,” Glickman remembers. Newspaper concerns about the Trail Blazers name (“How would it ever fit in a headline, etc.”) quickly evaporated. And soon, the Blazers (or Trail Blazers) became a household word in Portland and within seven years worldwide as “Go Blazers” and “Blazermania” became bywords when the city gained a major world championship in its first try.

“There were 172 people who sent in the name ‘Trail Blazers’,” Glickman said. The contest winner was determined by a drawing at the March 13 game. Blake Byrne, general sales manager of KPTV, was the winner of the drawing, receiving two season tickets to Trail Blazers home games that year.

The nickname was unique in professional sports at the time. No other major professional or university sports teams were using either the Blazers or Trail Blazers in 1970. The name, as Glickman noted at the time, “reflects both the ruggedness of the Pacific Northwest and the start of a major league era in our state.” Trail Blazers (or, more properly trailblazers) is defined by Webster as “One that blazes a trail to guide others: A pathfinder: A pioneer.” The actual name came from a practice by explorers making paths through forests and marking the paths by chopping white “blazes” in trees’ bark so others could follow. The term “trailblazing” is associated today with those on the cutting edge of discovery in such areas as space exploration, science, medicine and technology.


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