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Volume 17, Issue 3
April 2019


Cedar Mill writer publishes “Jail Blazers”
By James Bruce

Kerry Eggers, popular local sports writer, has lived in the West Haven neighborhood for 17 years. He says, “I like it. Here we are, 10 minutes from downtown Portland, 10 minutes from Beaverton, but it still feels quiet and secluded. I originally lived out near Claremont Golf Course, and there was a farm in my backyard, so I have definitely seen the area change. Herethe neighbors are friendly.Not a lot has really changed here, and I like that.”

Kerry Eggers

Eggers, who covers sports for the Portland Tribune, is also the author of seven books primarily about northwest sports, including his latest, Jail Blazers, which tells the story of the team during the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when team members were in the news for their off-court behavior as often as for their basketball. Eggers covered the team during those years, and the 540-page book is full of personal anecdotes and background. We recently interviewed him at his home.

What do you enjoy about writing a book versus a newspaper column?

I wouldn’t say enjoy exactly. It is more a feeling of satisfaction that you get when you complete a book rather than an article. For example, when I was working on covering the Olympics, that was a short-term engagement, but it was very intense and came with a lot of pressure. Writing a book is different—the process usually takes me six months to a year, but I find it much more gratifying than completing a newspaper article or column.

How did you get into journalism?

My father was the Sports Information Director at OSU. His job was to facilitate media connections with the school’s athletic department. So sports and journalism was always around, we lived it in our house. I jokingly say I got into journalism because it was better than having to work for a living. I started in college as the editor of the OSU Daily Barometer. I really enjoyed it, and during school I also worked for a few of the local papers. After graduation it was a natural move to become a sports writer.

You grew up in Corvallis and went to OSU.I attended U of O for undergrad and law school.What do you think of the rivalry between the schools?

Historically, it has been a great rivalry. Not all states are set up like Oregon, with two major state schools, so that creates a special type of rivalry. Last few years, the rivalry has not been as great, especially for football, mainly because there has not been much competition.

Why is it that a Beaver fan can never ever root for the Ducks, but the reverse is not true?

I think this is certainly true of some Duck fans but not all. I think it comes down to the fact that for many Oregon fans, they really don’t see OSU as a rival, at least not as much as University of Washington. Many Duck fans see that as the bigger rivalry. Maybe if the Beavers could beat the Ducks three or four times in a row, this might change.

The newspaper business has changed quite a bit over the last 10 years; especially in the way people consume their news. Have you had to change your writing style or the way you approach a story because of the impact of digital journalism?

Not really. People’s attention spans maybe have gotten shorter, but I still write the same style. I am fortunate that my editor also agrees. Perhaps I do shorten things a bit, especially with the online articles, but I don’t make a conscious effort.

What was you biggest challenge in writing this book, Jail Blazers?

The book covers such a broad period of time. I struggled with exactly how to define the dates that we were going to cover: when did it start? When did it end? I tried to go at least one or two years before it started, and also after, to get some context in there. But we covered a long time period. There were a lot of old articles to read. I framed it around 1993-2007. I did about 70 interviews for the book.

The title of your book,“Jail Blazers,” certainly grabs people’s attention and reminds them instantly of the bad boy era. Do you think, looking back, the name Jail Blazers was really fair to the team?

Yes. As Bob Whitsitt said, it’s a cute phrase and it rhymes, so it kind of stuck. But I don’t think it was unfair. The colloquialism stands. Some of these guys did things that were not legal and ethical. Steve Kerr thought maybe I would overdo things on the negative aspects, but when I spoke with Gary Trent about it, he agreed, that with all the things some of the players were doing, the reputation was earned.

Portland is known for a historic lack of ethnic diversity.We also don’t have any other major league pro sports teams here, which kind of puts the Blazers in the spotlight, or more on a pedestal than they otherwise might have been, would you agree?

I would agree there. Portland is a smaller market so there is a bit more scrutiny of the players than in some markets.

One common thing I noticed throughout the book is that many people say, “Yeah those were crazy times, but they were the best times in the NBA.” Why do you think that was?

This is a great organization and a great city. Paul Allen took great care of his players. They had the first jet, as an example, so these guys were being taken care of.

Who was a more difficult personality at the time, Bonzi Wells or Rasheed Wallace?

Bonzi certainly had more good times than Rasheed, especially with the fans. Bonzi could be very charming at times, even in public. Rasheed very rarely showed that to the public. In private, he was a very likeable and charming guy, but there were quite a few times that he would refuse to sign autographs, things like that. Overall, I would say Bonzi was a bit more difficult than ‘Sheed.

What do you want readers to take away from the book?

This was a balanced book. I tried to look at both sides, to not make it a hatchet job. I wanted to reflect on an era that certainly had a lot of misdeeds, but there were also a lot of people on that team that were highly regarded. Pippen, Kerr, Grant, Dudley, there were lots of great players involved. It’s also important to show how close that team came to winning it all. If they hadn’t lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, they would’ve won the championship that year. What would’ve happened if they won? It could’ve been great, you don’t end up trading Jermaine O’Neil, who knows? But overall, I wanted to be fair.

Have you had a chance to speak much with Jusef Nurkic?Seeing a big man go down with an injury like that is so difficult.Do you think he will be back in a Blazer uniform?

I haven’t spoken with him much since the injury, but he is going to be fine. I spoke with a surgeon after the injury who said he will be back playing by the end of the year. Of course, it is going to be a long road to recovery, maybe one-two years before he is back to full strength, but I am confident it will happen. There is no question of him coming back to be a productive center for Portland.

I’ve always been curious about whether the Blazers spend much time at the Nike campus? Do you know anything about that? At one point I thought they practiced there but I’ve been told that’s not true.

I don’t think so, as a rule. I know Damien Lillard does not! (He is sponsored by Adidas.) I believe some of the other NBA teams might practice out there if they get to Portland a day early, but I believe almost all of the Blazer’s team practices happen at their facility in Tualatin.

Do you know if any of the team members or coaching staff live around here?

Not from the current team. I know Scottie Pippen used to live right by Cedar Mill Elementary School. Chris Dudley used to live in Forest Heights, as well as Dale Davis. But right now, I think most of the players live in either Lake Oswego, Tualatin, or West Linn.

[Ed. note: if you're thinking about purchasing the book on Amazon, did you know you can donate a portion of the price to the Cedar Mill Library? Go to "smile.amazon.com" and search for Cedar Mill and Bethany Community Libraries Association. Make all your Amazon purchases from that link and you'll donate while you shop!]


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Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
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