PORTLAND, Ore. — Bill Schonely, the original voice of the Portland Trail Blazers, has announced his retirement after more than 50 years with the franchise.
The 92-year-old play-by-play announcer and team ambassador coined the term "Rip City" along with other popular catchphrases for the organization.
Schonely was hired in 1970 by team founder Harry Glickman and served as play-by-play broadcaster for almost three decades. He has served as an ambassador for the Trail Blazers since 2003, making community appearances in support of the team’s outreach mission, according to a Saturday news release.
“Bill has been a fixture of the Trail Blazers organization since its inception and will continue to be forever engrained in this city,” said Dewayne Hankins, president of business operations for the Trail Blazers. “We thank Bill immensely for his 50+ years of hard work and everything he has given to our organization, the city of Portland and the entire NBA community.”
At hire number six, he was one of the organization's very first employees. He was tasked with quickly assembling a radio network to introduce Oregon to the Trail Blazers organization.
Serving as the team’s play-by-play voice for nearly 30 years, he called over 2,500 games including the team’s championship run in 1977 and other runs in the 1990s.
Schonely maintained a streak of calling games throughout his 30-year run that was only interrupted in 1982-83 when he stepped away to recover from heart bypass surgery.
Prior to joining the Trail Blazers organization, Schonely served in the United States Marine Corps and worked at radio stations throughout the country.
In 1999, Schonely was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for broadcasting and in 2012, he was awarded the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to the game as an outstanding broadcaster.
Schonely will be honored at the Blazers' last home game of the season on Sunday, April 10 vs. the Utah Jazz.
Editor's note: The above video attached to this story aired in December 2019.