Do it for the fans, and charity too

By The Beacon | November 8, 2011 9:00pm

(Ian Hilger | THE BEACON)

By Kyle Cape-Lindelin

After months of fans listening to bickering on ESPN between NBA team owners and player representatives over how each side is being unfairly treated, and with no apparent hope that it will be resolved soon, Portland Trailblazer LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up and gave NBA fans what they want.

The Chiles Center became a playground for some of the most athletic players in the NBA, as UP welcomed a packed house filled with anxious Blazers fans and UP students who have been waiting for basketball to be back in the Rose City since the Blazers lost in the playoffs last spring.

The game was simply fun and exciting for all in attendance, and I doubt any fan can say they didn't enjoy getting to see current Blazers Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Raymond Felton, Armon Johnson and Chris Johnson ball together again.

Whether it was Aldridge going head-to-head with last year's NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant and dropping 42 points to Durant's 47, getting to see a preview of newly-acquired Felton running the point or Matthews draining threes and rocking the signature "three-goggles," the crowd ate it up.

Some of the biggest cheers were Blazer fans welcoming back former Blazers fan favorites, who can't get enough of Portland such as Jeff Pendergraph and Steve Blake.

The game also featured some great one-on-one action between Felton and Durant trading three's on three consecutive possessions ending with Blazer fans going mad when Matthews was able to swipe a steal away from Durant as he tried one of his signature crossover drives to the basket.

UP's many Washington and Seattle natives also got a treat by seeing their home-bred products on the floor and going hard at each other, with last year's NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford (Rainier Beach HS, Seattle), and the ultra athletic like Terrence Williams (Rainier Beach HS, Seattle), Nate Robinson (Rainier Beach HS, University of Washington) and Isaiah Thomas (University of Washington). Robinson and Thomas also had their own battle with the sub-six-footers taking turns trying to win over the crowd with slam dunks.

If it wasn't the basketball, fans had to be entertained by the witty hype men calling the game, Robinson doing a dance off to "The Dougie" with the UP-famous Michael Jackson Kid, Quinn Hallinan, or seeing two fans "coach" the teams, one of whom couldn't have been in middle school yet.

Although nothing beats Blazer games in Portland, Aldridge's Rip City Classic gave me the basketball fix I needed, yet it has left me itching for more. It gave the city and UP students something to cheer for on the court again with all the proceeds going to the noble cause of cancer research. As a bonus, the University and Pilots men's and women's basketball teams received free promotion to a new source of fans as they kick off their new seasons.

While nobody is happy with the NBA lockout, especially with no end in sight, at least for one night some talented players put on exciting show for the hungry fans in Portland. It showed me that regardless of the business side of things, they haven't forgotten about the fans and that they miss playing for us as much as we miss seeing them.