The voice of Rip City is going to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Bill Schonely, the original play-by-play voice of the Portland Trail Blazers, is the recipient of the 2012 Curt Gowdy Media Award, it was announced Friday by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The prestigious award is presented annually to one member of the print media and one broadcaster whose longtime efforts have made a significant contribution to the game of basketball.
Sam Smith, the long-time NBA writer for the Chicago Tribune, is the print honoree for 2012.
Schonely was the voice of the Trail Blazers from their first preseason game in Longview in 1970 through the 1998 playoffs, calling 2,522 contests during that span.
In 1971, he coined the phrase “Rip City,” which has evolved over the past four decades to describe the passionate fan base in Portland.
“I am absolutely stunned. This is something I’ve only dreamed about,” Schonely said in a press release. “To be included with the talented individuals who have won this award in the past is an honor I can’t begin to put into words.”
Past broadcast honorees have included Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, Celtics announcer Johnny Most, Knicks announcer Marv Albert, and national announcers Bob Costas, Dick Stockton, Jim Nantz, and Dick Vitale.
“We couldn’t be happier for Bill. He’s been one of the strongest pillars for our franchise since its inception 42 years ago,” Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said.
“This is a testament to the impact he’s had on fans in the city of Portland and broadcasters across the country. From calling our championship run in the ’70s, voicing the NBA Fan-tastic commercials in the eighties and his present-day work as our Ambassador, Bill has dedicated his life to this organization and the game of basketball.”
A three-time winner of the Oregon Sportscaster of the Year award, Schonely was named Oregon Broadcaster of the Year in 1995. In 2002, he was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.
Prior to joining the Trail Blazers in 1970, Schonely called games for Major League Baseball’s Seattle Pilots, the National Hockey League’s Oakland Seals, the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League, and the University of Washington football team.
In 2003, he was honored as Oregon’s Sportscaster of the Year while calling games for the Portland Beavers.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Schonely enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating high school and was eventually transferred to Armed Forces Radio while stationed overseas.
After stints in Baton Rouge, La., and Seattle, he was approached by the Trail Blazers to start a radio network in 1970.
The Trail Blazers organization retired Schonely’s microphone on Nov. 3, 2003.
The Gowdy Media Award is named in honor of legendary sports broadcaster and former Hall of Fame Board member and President, the late Curt Gowdy.
The Gowdy Awards will be presented at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in a special ceremony scheduled for Sept. 6. The award winners will also be recognized at the annual Enshrinement Ceremony, which will be held on Sept. 7.