Rasheed Wallace's cultural legacy goes far beyond his days with the Trail Blazers. For a generation of fashion-minded kids who came of age in the glory days of the team formerly known as the Jail Blazers, "Ball Don't Lie" and "Both Teams Played Hard" went beyond delightfully smart-ass quips from Portland's coolest-ever baller to aesthetic principles.
"For a lot of people who grew up in the '90s and early 2000s, if you're from Oregon and you're a basketball fan, the Jail Blazers were your team, whether you liked it or not, whether you understood the off-court stuff or you didn't," says Ira LaFontaine.
LaFontaine is co-owner of Old Town's Unspoken a menswear boutique at 219 NW Couch St. and, along with Keith Kunis, one of the minds behind streetwear label Trillblazin, whose tees, hoodies and caps pay homage to Trail Blazers past and present and spoof pop culture.
As fate so has it, Trillblazin released a new Rasheed Wallace-themed print that's available on tees and hoodies—on back, Wallace's number 30 blazes red under "Roscoe," one of his many nicknames. On the front, 3:17, both referring to Wallace's league-record 317 career technical fouls and a play on wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin's "Austin 3:16." It's Trillblazin's fourth piece of Wallace-themed merch.
"When I was a kid, I had no idea why it was particularly bad that Isaiah Rider would leave in the third quarter of a game to go home, and my parents would just shake their head," says LaFontaine. "You embrace what you're given, and Sheed is the lynchpin of the whole Jail Blazer ethos, for good and bad."
Wallace's fashion legacy began with his embrace of Nike's Air Force 1 as his game shoe of choice. Though performance basketball shoe technology had long surpassed the AF1 by the early 2000s, Wallace played his entire professional career in the high-top, often in personalized Player Edition (PE) colorways made especially for him by Nike, finished with patent leather and branded with his fadeaway jumper logo. In October 2017, all 12 of Wallace's PE sneakers were brought out of Nike's archives and displayed at Unspoken at a launch event for Nike's new NBA jerseys, complete with a white-gloved archivist handling the shoes.
Wallace's place in contemporary Portland streetwear isn't limited to the hearts of clothiers.
"Sheed jerseys don't last," says Christopher Yen, owner of vintage sportswear boutique Laundry on Southeast Alder Street. "Compared to other jerseys, size and condition aren't as important to us, because everyone wants one. They're our best-selling jerseys, period. It is uncommon for a person finding a Rasheed Wallace jersey at our store to not say "Ball don't lie."
Wallace's then-maligned shenanigans have aged into an endearing snapshot of a grittier pre-LeBron era that seems like a distant memory.
"I would say the thing with Rasheed is that there's this sort of grey area that people naturally gravitate toward, because that's the way most people live," says LaFontaine. "Rasheed is a more realistic hero to a lot of people, especially to a lot of younger people at the time."
Damian Lillard may be the hero Portland wants, but Rasheed Wallace is the hero we deserve.