Longtime Portland Trail Blazers broadcaster Bill Schonely, who first coined the iconic phrase “Rip City,” has died, the team announced.
He was 93.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) January 21, 2023
"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Trail Blazers legendary broadcaster Bill Schonely," Trail Blazers president of business operations Dewayne Hankins said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to his wife, Dottie, and the entire Schonely family during this difficult time. Bill was a warm, engaging and sharp person – always up for a joke, a keen observation or a kind remark. His mark on the organization, the state of Oregon and all of sports broadcasting will be felt for generations. No one loved Rip City more than Bill did and we are all forever grateful for his contributions to the community."
Schonely was the Trail Blazers’ original radio broadcaster, getting his start there during the inaugural season in 1970. He was actually hired as the sixth employee in the organization’s history after a long broadcast career in the area.
He kept broadcasting for the next 28 seasons, and even spent two seasons in the 1990s as the team’s television play-by-play announcer.
Schonely retired from calling games in 1998, but he continued with sideline reporting and other projects for television broadcasts. He also worked as an ambassador with the franchise from 2003 until last April.
Schonely called more than 2,500 games in his career, and missed just 28, per The Oregonian — the bulk of which came while recovering from a heart attack.
Schonely is credited with coining the term “Rip City,” something the franchise and the city at large has embraced in the decades since. According to The Oregonian, Schonely first blurted out, “Rip City, all right!” after Jim Barnett made a shot during the team's first season in 1971, and it stuck from there on.
“That night, I got caught up in the excitement and it just came out of my mouth,” he said in 2009, per The Oregonian. “It wasn’t something that was planned.”
Schonely was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, and he had a banner raised in the Trail Blazers’ arena the following year. He received the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, too.
“The Schonz was a cornerstone of the organization since Day 1. He was the ultimate Trail Blazer – the voice of the Trail Blazers,” Trail Blazers alumni ambassador Terry Porter said in a statement. “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."