In the late ’90s and early 2000s, the Portland Trail Blazers were one of the hottest teams in the NBA. For almost a decade, they won 60 percent of their games while making it to the Western Conference Finals twice. However, what happened off-court was just as unforgettable as what they did on the court.
When someone asked Blazers general manager Bob Whitsitt about his team’s chemistry, he replied that he’d “never studied chemistry in college.” And with that, the “Jail Blazers” were born. Built in a similar fashion to a fantasy team, the team had skills, but their issues ended up being their undoing. In fact, many consider it the darkest period in franchise history.
While fans across the country were watching the skills of Damon Stoudamire, Rasheed Wallace, and Zach Randolph, those in Portland couldn’t have been more disappointed in the players’ off-court actions. This, many have mentioned, included a very racial element—which carried over to the players as well. As forward Rasheed Wallace said, “We’re not really going to worry about what the hell [the fans] think about us. They really don’t matter to us. They can boo us every day, but they’re still going to ask for our autographs if they see us on the street. That’s why they’re fans and we’re NBA players.”
While people think of the Detroit Pistons of the eighties as the elite “Bad Boys,” the “Jail Blazers” were actually bad. Author Kerry Eggers, who covered the Trail Blazers during this controversial era, goes back to share the stories from the players, coaches, management, and those in Portland when the players were in the headlines as much for their play as for their legal issues.
Kerry Eggers is a sportswriter who has covered Portland sports for more than forty years, writing for the Portland Tribune since its inception in 2001. He is a five-time winner of the Oregon Sportswriter of the Year Award and has covered major sporting events throughout his career, including the Summer Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, and NBA Finals to name a few. He is the author of six books, including Blazers Profiles, Clyde the Glide, and The Civil War Rivalry: Oregon vs. Oregon State.
“One of the great cult teams in NBA history deserves its own book (and, for that matter, movie). Eggers is the perfect chronicler and he delivers with (pardon the pun) this blunt retelling. The anecdotesequally maddening and comicalcapture an era. But the larger storyenablers, unaccountability, and the corrosive influence of moneyis timeless.” Jon Wertheim, executive editor, Sports Illustrated
“You will want to read Jail Blazers ever so slowly. So many delectable details to digest and savor. So much was news to me.” Peter Vecsey, the first national NBA columnist, NBC/TNT/NBA-TV analyst
“The Jail Blazersa team and an era we're not likely to ever see again in any self-respecting professional sports league. It was a constant tightrope walk between comedy and tragedy. Kerry Eggers’s exhaustive research brings it all back in an incredible saga of a franchise gone wrong. Whether you are a Trail Blazer fan or not, this book will amaze you.” Dwight Jaynes, digital editor/on-air host, NBC Sports Northwest
“A comprehensive look at one of the darkest eras of Trail Blazers basketball, which is enriched by extensive interviews from many of the key characters. Jail Blazers even unearths some untold stories and scenes that will remind just how wild and crazy the ride was for Trail Blazers' fans.” Jason Quick, The Athletic
“Kerry Eggers provides excellent, in-depth, never-before-told events that occurred during the Jail Blazer era. This book is a must-read for sports fans who crave unfiltered, behind-the-scenes details about a group of talented, volatile players that shaped history.” Chris Haynes, senior NBA insider, Yahoo! Sports