The Mayor of Portland made it official: August 18, 2011 was Arvydas Sabonis Day. That afternoon legendary Blazers announcer Bill Schonely presented Sabonis with the “Key to Rip City” in front of thousands at a gathering in downtown Portland. (I hear that Sabonis is not the first to receive this honor. I hope these keys have “Do Not Copy” engraved into them, as a citizen of Rip City I’m getting concerned for my safety. Also, if one lost the Key to Rip City would they have to change all the locks and have new keys made for everybody? Sound expensive. They should look at using swipe cards. Do you want more key-related humor? No you do not.)
Later that evening the Blazers hosted a “VIP Reception” to honor Sabonis. I was able to attend despite managing to only be as important as anybody else in the humanistic sense. Really the VIP reception was just like being crammed into Pioneer Courthouse Square underneath the Sun with 2,500 sweaty people, except here you had personal space, air conditioning, could chat with Sabonis, then get a picture, then go get your steak cut exactly the way you like by a guy in a white hat, then chat about how delicious the little red potatoes cut in half and stuffed with sour cream, cheese, chives, and bacon are with Terry Porter (I have never seen so much readily available food and so few media people around to feast upon it), then get a Sabonis bobblehead to take home. And you don’t even have to feel like an elitist ass since proceeds from the fifty-dollars per head event go to the Make It Better Foundation. Now, back to work Pleb.
After posing with numerous smaller humans, Sabonis joined a panel on stage that included team radio announcer Brain Wheeler, former team owner Harry Glickman, former coach PJ Carlesimo, and former team executives Bucky Buckwalter and Jim Paxson. The panel took turns praising Sabonis and telling anecdotes. Sabonis expressed his gratitude and flashed what I will call his trademark giant Lithuanian man humor.
Here is a transcript of Glickman’s story of an early attempt at signing Sabonis:
I went to the Soviet Union to try to sign him. I’ll make a long story as short as possible, finally found somebody to negotiate with, he was the Deputy Minister of Sports and Culture. We started the meetings, he spoke very good English, and he said “My father was a contractor and he always said that Portland cement was the best, so it’s a pleasure to welcome someone from Portland.” I thought “Well, we’re off on the right track.” I thought we had a deal made. We came back, translated the contract from English into Russian, by a professor at Lewis & Clark College, that cost us five-thousand dollars, mailed the contract over there, and never from him again. But I’m glad he eventually got here.
Listen to the full Sabonis Panel discussion here. I would recommend that you listen even if I didn’t waste an incredible amount of time figuring out how to upload it. But since I did waste an incredible amount of time figuring out how to upload it, I really want you to listen. If you are like me you will clip out a Sabonis joke and make it your ringtone. I’m about to become the most popular person on the bus. Thank you, Arvydas Sabonis, and your Day.