Blazer banners have gone overboard
Dave Twardzik, in town this week to honor Lionel Hollins, his backcourt running mate on the 1977 Trail Blazer championship team, admitted some embarrassment. I've heard him express it before, and I understand.
A good man and a very solid NBA player, Twardzik has never quite come to grips with the fact that his number - 13 - has been retired by the Blazers.
'It's a joke,' he says. 'I'm grateful, but they shouldn't have done it. My number is retired at my high school and my college. And that was fine. But not here. I just didn't deserve it.'
Twardzik spent four seasons as a Blazer and averaged 9.5 points per game before injuries stole his career. He was a good player who had some great moments on a sensational team - just like so many of his teammates on the only Portland team to win an NBA title.
Many of them spent just a few seasons here. Many of them weren't all-stars. But they all meant so much to the community.
Management began to retire uniform numbers and before you know it, the threshold for membership in what should be an elite club - players with their uniform numbers hanging in the rafters - had dropped to a standard where, if you look at statistics, a lot of players now qualify. And inconsistencies abound.
From the championship team, Larry Steele, Lloyd Neal, Twardzik, Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas and Lionel Hollins (on Wednesday) have had their numbers retired.
But Bob Gross, one of the best players from either team in the '77 finals against Philadelphia, watched from his Portland home as Terry Porter and Rasheed Wallace wore his No. 30. It still isn't retired.
So now, in the name of Porter and Gross, do you retire No. 30? Does it bother you that Wallace's stats dwarf Gross'? Or that Walton actually played only 209 games as a Blazer? And, by the way, where's Jim Paxson's No. 4?
Without trying to hurt anyone's feelings, I think it's appropriate to address the unfairness of the whole situation. And I leave it to Twardzik to suggest the best way to set it all straight.
'We were a great team,' he says, emphasizing that last word. 'They should have put a banner up with all of our numbers on it. But not really retire all the numbers. I think recognizing us as a team -all of us - would have been perfect.'
I know it sounds a little wacky, but I'm not so sure it couldn't still be done. It might be rude to unretire someone's number, but there are no rules here - there is no right or wrong way to do this.
Why not take time in the future, honor them all again and put those numbers up on a banner together -just as this team played so well, together.
Keep the uniform retirements to the all-time greats. You'd still want that No. 22 for Clyde Drexler. The honorary No. 77 for Jack Ramsay. Banners for the first owner Larry Weinberg and longtime exec Harry Glickman. Probably the No. 32 for Walton and No. 45 for Geoff Petrie. And, of course, the microphone for Bill Schonely.
And then let's have the good old-fashioned sports arguments about all the rest. That's part of the fun. Maybe even let fans vote or select a panel of former players, coaches and media to do any more additions to the laundry hanging from the ceiling.
Great players and great teams should be celebrated. But some perspective is necessary for it to have real meaning.