Iconic 28-year Trailblazers announcer Bill Schonely dies at 93

Trailblazers announcer Bill Schonely has long been an icon to fans, but his time as an announcer has ended along with his life at age 93. 

Schonely was the Trailblazers’ announcer for 28 years from the team’s inaugural year in 1970. After retiring from announcing, he became an ambassador for the team until his death.

He was known as “Schonz,” and he coined the phrase “Rip City” to describe the team’s activity.

He was an ambassador for the city of Portland, and he often voiced team promotions as well as announcing the games.

Colleagues remember

“I don’t think there’s been a more recognizable voice or beloved voice in Oregon history,” Oregon Historical Society spokesman Kerry Tymchuck said.

“Bill Schonely is, was, and always will be the voice of Rip City,” Blazers radio play-by-play announcer Travis Demers chimed in. “I’m lucky to be able to call him a friend and mentor. He always had words of encouragement for me, and made me feel like I was deserving of borrowing his chair. There will never be anyone else like him.”

“Bill Schonely in my eyes will always be the voice of the Blazers. He guided my every move in my early years as a broadcaster,” Mike Rice, former Trail Blazers radio and TV analyst said. “He loved the Blazers and it rubbed off on everyone in the organization. Bill was a very special person in my life.”

“I’m not alone, I know when I say Bill Schonely had a massive impact on my childhood and my life. He could set a stage, and paint a visual picture, like no one else,” former Trail Blazers radio and TV host Mike Barrett said. “He’s the reason I wanted to become a broadcaster, and I owe him so much. What a gift to the NBA, the city, the state, and the region. The GOAT.”

The team responds

Former Blazer Terry Porter said on behalf of the team on Saturday,

The Schonz was a cornerstone of the organization since Day 1. He was the ultimate Trail Blazer – the voice of the Trail Blazers. He was someone that Blazers fans grew up listening to for many, many generations. His voice will be missed, his presence will be missed, but his legacy will not be forgotten. It’s intertwined with every part of this organization.

Even the mayor of Portland recognized Schonely’s passing.

“Rest in Peace to my friend and the Mayor of Rip City Bill Schonely. He was one of our city’s legendary figures and will be greatly missed, Ted Wheeler said in a” tweet Saturday.

Kerry Eggers, a long-time Portland sports columnist, and Schonely biographer told KATU News, “Bill Schonely was not just the voice of the Trail Blazers, he is the most popular figure in the history of the franchise. A beloved person whose impact on the community can’t be overstated.”

Schonely cared about kids

Schonely was on the board of the Providence Child Center Foundation for more than 20 years and came to care deeply about needy and medically fragile children. In 2009, the “Bill’s Kids Fund” was started by the center to honor his 80th birthday. Bill helped raise millions of dollars through this fund to support the center during and after his life.

“Bill’s commitment to the children we serve at Providence was boundless. His passion never wavered, and we are deeply grateful for his decades of service, his giving spirit, and his generous heart,” said Kelly Buechler, chief philanthropy officer for Providence Foundations of Oregon.