The history of Portland basketball from about 2000-2005 is mired in controversy and is often spun wildly out of control. The “Jail Blazers,” as many described the early 2000 Portland teams, persist in the memories of many NBA fans because of the media attention they received — and continue to receive — for both on- and off-the-court incidents. Bonzi Wells, who made an appearance on the BIG3 Show to talk about the early ‘00s Blazers and the struggles at that time.
Wells had some hilarious moments with the media during his time in the NBA, specifically his ‘trash’ post-game interview, but highlighted one specific incident on the podcast that negatively impacted his career in Portland and beyond:
“I remember back when I had an article in Sports Illustrated. Some clown came in for one day and had the nerve to tell the people that I hate the fans. And the fans believed it! And I’m like, everyone let some clown who has no association with us come in here and say I hate the fans?
“When he took the closed quote he asked me, ‘how do you feel about the fans booing you?’ And I said ‘I really hate it. It’s tough because I know we didn’t play well.’ He just totally wrote it some other way and that stayed with me my whole career. But I never had a chance to tell nobody, this is the first time I actually said it in public. That’s the type of stuff they were doing to us, they wanted to demonize us so they could have a reason to trade us, to justify it. That was just such bull crap back then but we had to take it.”
Wells along with Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, Damon Stoudamire, Zach Randolph and others didn’t have the opportunity to voice their side of the story in the same way players do today. “It was just really tough when you feel like you didn’t have a voice,” Wells said. “A lot of us didn’t really have a voice. We’d read the newspaper and it’d say the worst thing about us and our family name, and you just almost had to take it back then.”
Wells also was asked about the Trail Blazers being misunderstood and said, “I just think our team was ahead of our time and what people understood about players. We didn’t do nothing that the players don’t do now, it was just not talked about or understood. People just kind of thought of us and the first thing to come to your mind is these guys are thugs, their bad boys. That’s just the easiest way to categorize a team that you don’t really understand. So instead of taking the time to get to know us personally, they just rather throw shots at us and paint a picture to the public that we were really bad people and not ever giving us a chance for the public to really get to know us.”
Asked on the difference between the early ‘00s and today in terms of voice, Wells opined, “They [players today] have a voice. Guys could be on the verge of getting suspended and they can go tell everything that happened and just always plead their case. Back then you’d get fined for that. You could never talk against the league, you could never talk against anything almost.”
Wells has been living a relatively quiet life as a retiree, he played some ball overseas but his dad hat is firmly on while living in Indiana. He loves Game of Thrones so much that he jokingly threatened to hang up on the Big3 Show if the new season was dropping that night.
Wells is also making a comeback of sorts in Ice Cube’s BIG3 league. He will be a co-captain of the Tri-State along with former teammate and longtime friend, Jermaine O’Neal. The Big3 league starts Sunday June 25th in Brooklyn and will run all summer across various locations.