Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers Portland Trail Blazers
 
Basketball was a sport Paul loved more than any other. He was drawn to the nonstop action and how, unlike football or baseball, so many games were decided in the final five minutes. “I thought the NBA was the greatest spectacle in sports — equal parts athleticism, ballet, teamwork, and individual grit,” he said. As a self-described “gangly child,” he played on his church’s peewee basketball team, which went on to win the city title and, even though his coach only put him in for the final few minutes of the team’s blowout wins, he had been bitten by the basketball bug.
When he was first diagnosed with cancer in 1982, the sport provided an escape for him. He went to every game he could and watched those he couldn’t on television. He avidly studied box scores in the newspaper while waiting for radiation treatments and was obsessed with the statistics he read about in the Official NBA Register. 

Years later, when Microsoft went public in 1986 and Paul found himself a multi-millionaire overnight, he called his close friend and former fraternity roommate to tell him he wanted to buy an NBA team. A little over a year later, in the autumn of 1987, he heard the Portland Trail Blazers might be available and, after negotiations, in May of 1988 Paul attended his first press conference as the team’s new owner. In making the announcement, the team’s previous owner, Larry Weinberg, introduced Paul as “first of all a fan… unless you’re a fan, nothing else counts in this ownership,” he said. And, indeed, from that moment until his passing in 2018, there was no bigger Blazer fan than Paul.  
 
He loved to tell the story of how he once had two team members, Clyde Drexler and Kiki Vandeweghe, over to his house on Mercer Island. As evening neared, Clyde asked if the three of them could play a game of H-O-R-S-E on the basketball court Paul had in his backyard. As darkness fell, they turned on the lights and a drizzle began to fall. Undeterred, Clyde and Kiki continued — frequently racing across the slick court to chase down the ball when it bounced out. Paul began to question whether having two of his star players slipping and sliding around his wet yard was a good idea. What if one of them got injured? But to them, it didn’t matter. He was in awe of their commitment and athletic abilities. Paul recounted the experience by saying: “After I made the game-clinching three-pointer (they’d gone easy on me), Clyde said, ‘Hey, I want to dunk.’ Kiki tossed the ball in the air, and Clyde took a flat-footed leap from under the basket. He was 26 years old, in his prime, and he met the ball maybe three feet over the ten-foot rim — caught it, dunked it. I’ve sat courtside at more than a thousand NBA games, but I’ve never seen anything quite like that soaring slam in the dark, in the rain, on my own outdoor court.” 
Whenever he was home in Seattle, he’d regularly invite six or eight people to fly to Portland with him to attend home games and his mother, Faye, often joined him. In fact, she also became one of the team’s most committed fans. Faye was known for sitting with Paul on the baseline where she wasn’t afraid to scold referees in a dignified fashion. Of course, being that close to the action wasn’t without its hazards. Once, while the Blazers were playing the Sonics, Sam Perkins (at six feet nine inches and 235 pounds) crashed into her while chasing a ball that was headed out of bounds. Instinctively, she threw up her hands to protect herself but afterwards, Paul noticed she was holding her wrist. “It’s broken,” she said calmly. At halftime, the team doctor iced and taped it, and Paul asked if she wanted to go home. “No,” she replied firmly, “we’re going to watch the rest of the game.” 
Paul at a Blazers game with his friend, Bert Kolde, and mom, Faye.
 
Paul at a Blazers game with his friend, Bert Kolde, and mom, Faye.
While his decades of ownership brought its fair share of stresses and challenges, it truly was always a labor of love. That heart-felt commitment to the team continues to run deep in the Allen family to this day — with Paul’s sister, Jody, who assumed control of the team after Paul’s death. Like Paul, she appreciates how much the team means to the people of Portland and how much Rip City has grown to be an inseparable part of the community’s vibrant identity. 
Paul and the original owner of the Trail Blazers, Larry Weinberg, in 2017.
 
Paul and the original owner of the Trail Blazers, Larry Weinberg, in 2017.

Shortly after Paul’s passing, Blazer’s original owner, Larry Weinberg, summed up Paul’s deep love of Portland, and the team, when he said, "I had a number of people who had been interested in buying it [and I thought] maybe if the right person showed up I might reconsider. On this one occasion my lawyer called and he met this fellow, he's a humble guy with the wherewithal to do what has to be done. He drives an older car with a basketball in the back seat, the basketball in the back seat really got to me, it meant some commitment — some interest, some dedication to that sport… we talked for a while, and the more we talked the more I was impressed with his passion to win a championship. I was handing over the stewardship to somebody that cared deeply about doing the right thing."

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