Why is Portland called Rip City?

Those of us who love Portland also tend to love our city’s many nicknames – Rose City, Stumptown, Slabtown, and so many more. Often the origins of the nicknames are shrouded in mythology and mystery when, in reality, simple logic explains how the names came into existence.

We theorized Rip City could have stemmed from alternative Portlanders sporting torn jeans in the 1980s and 1990s. Nope. Maybe it’s a shipping or nautical term of some kind referring to Portland’s immense and successful Port? No luck.

The origin of “Rip City” begins and ends with our professional basketball team – the Trail Blazers – however its origin is so random it will never be fully explained. The myth remains intact.

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The origin story of “Rip City”


Portland’s NBA team, the Trail Blazers, started existence back in 1971. During a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Jim Barnett, a point guard on the team, took a long shot, both literally and metaphorically. Mid-game, Barnett quickly threw out a deep field goal attempt and made it!

The chances of the shot making it into the net were so slim that Bill Schonely, the game’s play-by-play announcer and considered by many fans to be “The Voice of the Blazers,” became overwhelmed by his own excitement and blurted out “Rip City! Alright!” Here’s the kicker – Schonely himself admits that even he doesn’t know why he shouted “Rip City.”

He was simply inspired to yell it at that exact moment. And the name stuck. Barnett, the player who scored the shot and went on to become a game broadcaster himself, told the Oregonian in a 2009 interview, “Schonely made the call – I just made the shot, but I do take pride in that; it’s a little bit of history.” Sometimes, nicknames are rooted in reality. For us, we love them just as much (maybe more) when the truth is so much stranger than fiction.

Do you want to know the origins of other Portland oddities? Leave your inquiries in the comments!