PORTLAND, Ore. — A veteran server for the Portland Trail Blazers hopes she’s "hit the limit" after a string of run-ins with players and refs have sent her tumbling in an unprecedented streak.
Katy Stevens loves being in the center of the action.
“My love of basketball starting in the 90s, with being a Chicago Bulls fan,” she said.
Fast forward to the 2000s and Stevens, originally from the Chicago area, had moved to Portland, then applied for a job as a server with the Trail Blazers.
After a few years, she’d worked her way to the floor full-time, to Sections 112-113 — as close as it gets without being in the game.
“I love the excitement, I love the energy, I love everything about working on the court,” Stevens said.
She moves up and down her bright red lane, greeting season ticket holders with her smile and pink glasses, weaving in and out with a tray piled with beers, bottled water, and bags of popcorn.
“I have to have eyes in the back of my head,” she said. “When I walk out on the court, I just tell myself ‘okay Katy, focus.'”
The pace and the hazards mean that Stevens rarely has time to truly catch her breath — she usually watches the game highlights when she gets home. But more and more, those highlights seem to include her.
“Does this happen to anybody else?” I ask.
“I don’t think so,” she says. “Out there, it’s just so crazy.”
Stevens first captured national attention back in December 2019. The Lakers were in town and Lebron James took a shot and missed. As he backed up, he ran right into Stevens, knocking her to the ground.
“I said to myself, 'Oh it’s probably a referee, no big deal,'” Stevens remembers. “And I turn around and he picked me up and I said to myself, 'That is not a referee, holy smokes, that is Lebron James!'”
James gave Stevens a hug, then asked her if she was okay, before he went back to the game.
Stevens threw her arms in the air and, in laughter and tears, ran all the way to the service area to share the moment with her colleagues.
They already knew, she said, because she was all over the jumbotron.
A few months after Lebron, referee Mitchell Ervin backed into Stevens during a game against the Pelicans. Ervin toppled Katy’s tray to the ground, lightly soaking some patrons and prompting a timeout to clean it up.
The announcers called it “Margaritaville.” Stevens said she was mortified. She remembers burying her head in the shoulder of the former Nike COO as he and his wife tried to comfort her.
“I just said to myself, I need to get off this court.”
Then, in March 2022, it happened a third time: the Spurs’ Josh Richardson lost possession, then flew off the corner of the court and essentially tackled Stevens.
As she fell face-first, Stevens nearly took out her colleague, Stacy — who lost a tray of snacks, but otherwise escaped unscathed.
“When he picked me up and apologized, and said ‘are you okay,’ that’s when I realized what had happened,” Stevens said. “I was just like, you have got to be kidding me.”
Her friends call her “Crazy Katy,” Stevens said. Not crazy in a bad way, she says, but as in someone who likes to have fun.
Katy’s manager, Janelle Adams, with hospitality company Levy Restaurants, says her colleagues have coined a more appropriate nickname for her: the magnet.
Adams has even developed a bit of a protocol.
“My first thought is, 'is she okay?'” Adams said. “Pull her off the floor. Get her some water. Check her out. 'Are you good? Do you want me to follow you?'”
On Sunday, as the Blazers’ season wrapped up, Adams and the team presented her with a framed memento of all three “occurrences,” as Stevens calls them.
Stevens confesses to me there have actually been a few others. She can’t recall exactly how many, just a few other run-ins she terms “minor,” like being knocked down by a ref.
She insists she’s not a magnet for collisions or danger in life outside Moda. Just here.
“I really hope that I’ve hit the limit on no more — fingers crossed — no more disasters,” she said.
And while you might catch her working the crowd at Providence Park for the Timbers and Thorns, or hopefully in a new job as a paralegal after completing a program through Portland Community College, Stevens says next season she plans to be right back in Rip City.
And while Stevens hasn’t been (knock on wood) injured by any of her close calls, sports announcers have joked that she needs to be “equipped.”
“My co-workers and my friends outside of work have joked that I need to start wearing a helmet and a body suit,” Stevens said.