Bill Schonely died on Saturday. He was a longtime Portland Trail Blazers announcer with a unique baritone who came up with the phrase “Rip City.” He was 93. Schonely, who was known as “The Schonz,” was the team’s announcer from its first season in 1970 until it won the NBA championship in 1977. He did this job for about 28 years. The team said he died in Portland, Oregon, with his wife of 31 years, Dottie, by his side. The reason for death was not made public.
“The Schonz was a cornerstone of the organization since Day 1. He was the ultimate Trail Blazer – the voice of the Trail Blazers,” former Blazer Terry Porter said in a statement released by the team. “He was someone that Blazers fans grew up listening to for many, many generations. His voice will be missed, his presence will be missed, but his legacy will not be forgotten. It’s intertwined with every part of this organization.”
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Schonely worked as an ambassador for the Blazers after he stopped being a sportscaster. He was often at home games until he officially retired last year. Ron Wyden, a U.S. senator, said that Schonely was “a true Oregon legend.”
“My friend Bill Schonely provided the soundtrack for generations of @trailblazers fans and forever made our beloved Portland into #RipCity,” Wyden posted to Twitter.
Schonely’s catchphrase “Rip City” was born during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. It is now written on one of the team’s uniforms. The Blazers were behind by more than 20 points, but they came back to win.
Schonely said in an interview last year that Jim Barnett, a former Oregon player who was one of the original Blazers, winked at him before taking a shot just a few steps inside the midcourt line. It broke.
“I was gonna say it ‘Rip the twine’ or something but I came up with ’Rip City! All right!’ And look what happened,” Schonely said. “It took a little while for that phrase to catch on. I had no idea that all of this was going to happen. But it did, and wherever you go, it’s humbling to me, but it’s ‘Rip City.’”
Schonely called more than 2,200 Trail Blazers games. He was recognized by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with the Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2012.
A public celebration of his life is being planned, the Blazers said
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