Why Is Playing for the Portland Trail Blazers So Dangerous for 7-Footers?

Surely none have suffered like we’ve suffered? Well, maybe—but when you look into it, others have suffered.

As a Blazers fan, I'm excited for the return of injured center Jusuf Nurkić. But I'm also nervous—we haven't exactly had great luck keeping our big men healthy over the years. What is it about playing in Portland that makes it so dangerous for 7-footers? —Frail Blazer

I'm not saying the Blazers are cursed, Frail. Still, we fans could be forgiven for wondering, in our darkest moments, exactly which vengeful fairy godmother we forgot to invite to the 1977 NBA championship victory party.

The Blazers' woes began in 1978, when star center Bill Walton suffered a broken foot midway through the season—the first in a series of injuries that would plague him for the rest of his career.

Sam Bowie, at 7-foot-1, was selected by Portland with the second overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft. (Michael Jordan was picked third.) Healthy his rookie year, Bowie would miss 184 games over the next three seasons before being traded in 1989.

The deepest wound (some say it's still bleeding today) is, of course, Greg Oden, first overall pick of the 2007 draft. He missed his entire first season due to injury, had a sort of normal second season, and then played in just 21 games over the next three seasons. The situation was so bad satirical newsmagazine The Onion did a story in 2010 called "Careless Blazers Goofing Around With Basketball Shatter Greg Oden Into Thousand Pieces." That's pretty brutal.

So on that fateful day in 2019, when Nurkić's leg folded like Barack Obama at a budget standoff, the grisly injury was accompanied by a sinking feeling of déjà vu. Surely none have suffered like we've suffered?

Well, maybe—but when you look into it, others have suffered. Ever heard of Gheorghe Muresan, Brad Daugherty or Aleksandar Radojević? Me neither, because they were promising big men (for the Nets, Cavs and Raptors, respectively) who never had much of an impact due to injury.

The Blazers' luck may be worse than average, but it's not beyond the pale. It's just that other teams' disappointments don't register the way your own do. That's why people in Cleveland have never heard of Sam Bowie. (Granted, they have heard of Greg Oden, but come on—that shit was bananas.)

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com.