NBA: Bill Schonely, legendary Trail Blazers broadcaster, passes away at age 93

Schonely worked nearly 30 years as the team's play-by-play announcer.

NBA: Bill Schonely, legendary Trail Blazers broadcaster, passes away at age 93
NBA: Bill Schonely, legendary Trail Blazers broadcaster, passes away at age 93

PORTLAND, Ore. — Bill Schonely, the Trail Blazers' first broadcaster, died on January 21 at the age of 93.

Schonely, the eldest child of Walter and Juanita Schonely, was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania. In the Marine Corps, he hosted an overseas sports programme for Armed Forces Radio. Then, Schonely began his broadcasting career in Seattle with radio station KVI and as the voice of the Western Hockey League's Seattle Totems. Before joining the Trail Blazers, his extensive sports broadcasting expertise included University of Washington football, Seattle Angels baseball, the Oakland Seals of the National Hockey League, and the Seattle Pilots of Major League Baseball. 

Schonely was hired as the sixth employee in the organization's history by team founder Harry Glickman, who immediately entrusted him with constructing a radio network to introduce Oregonians to the Trail Blazers. During his time with the team, he invented numerous classic catchphrases, none greater than "Rip City," which is now synonymous with the team and the city of Portland. 

During his nearly 30-year tenure as the team's play-by-play announcer, he called more than 2,500 games, including the team's remarkable championship run in 1977 and its entertaining runs in the 1990s. Throughout his 30-year career, Schonely never missed a game, with the exception of 1982-1983, when he was recovering from heart bypass surgery. Schonely was elected into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame for broadcasting in 1999, and received the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Media Award in 2012 for his services to the game as an accomplished announcer. 

Beginning in 2003, Schonely worked as a Trail Blazers Ambassador, promoting the team's outreach purpose while maintaining contacts with the Rip City community and participating on different radio and television programmes. After more than 50 years with the Trail Blazers, he retired from the club after the conclusion of the 2021-22 NBA season. 

The "Mayor of Rip City" supported a number of charitable organisations, including the American Heart Association and the Providence Child Center, which in 2009 established the "Bill's Kids Fund" in recognition of his longstanding commitment and compassion for the medically fragile children who reside at the centre. 

Dottie Schonely, Schonely's wife of 31 years, was by his side when he passed away.

Bill Schonely was a renowned announcer for the Trail Blazers, and we are profoundly saddened to hear of his loss, said Trail Blazers President of Business Operations Dewayne Hankins. During this sad time, our thoughts go out to his wife, Dottie, and the entire Schonely family. Bill was a friendly, engaging, and intelligent individual who was always up for a joke, a sharp insight, or a nice comment. His influence on the organisation, Oregon, and sports broadcasting will endure for generations. No one cherished Rip City more than Bill, and we will be eternally thankful for his contributions to the community." 

Schonz has been a pillar of the company since day one. Terry Porter, Trail Blazers Alumni Ambassador, remarked, "He was the epitome of the Trailblazer, the voice of the Trailblazers." Generations upon generations of Blazers fans grew up listening to him. His voice will be missed, as will his physical presence, but his legacy will not be forgotten. It permeates every aspect of this institution." 

There will be a private service and a public celebration of Schonely's life. Details will be provided at a later time. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Bill's name to Providence Child Center and the American Heart Association.

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