Harry Glickman, Trail Blazers founder and championship GM, dies at 96

Harry Glickman, the founder of the Portland Trail Blazers and the GM of their only championship team, has died at age 96. The team announced his death on Wednesday night with a touching video. No cause was given.

As the Blazers said in their tweet, Glickman is known as the father of professional sports in Oregon, responsible for bringing Portland its first major professional sports team. While professional baseball was played in Portland from the early 1900s until 2010, the city didn’t have a major professional sports franchise until 1970. That’s when the city was granted an expansion NBA team, and Glickman put together the ownership group that paid the $3.7 million expansion fee.

After the team’s founding, Glickman served as the general manager until 1987, capturing the franchise’s only NBA championship in 1977. Glickman and head scout/future GM Stu Inman built that team, bringing in Dr. Jack Ramsay as head coach and drafting numerous key players like future Hall of Famer Bill Walton. Glickman also oversaw the 1990 and 1992 teams which won the Western Conference but lost in the NBA Finals.

Glickman transitioned into the role of president emeritus in the 1980s, eventually retiring in 1994. Beyond the team accomplishments, Glickman oversaw a record 814 consecutive home sellouts, a record across sports that the Boston Red Sox eventually surpassed.

“Harry Glickman laid the foundation and established the benchmark for small market success in the NBA,” said Neil Olshey, President of Basketball Operations. “He was the driving force that set the stage for the 1977 NBA Championship, a seminal moment that elevated Portland and allowed it to join the elite of professional sports franchises. His contributions to the city of Portland and the Trail Blazers are immense and for that we all owe him a great debt of gratitude.”

Portland Trail Blazers founder Harry Glickman died on Wednesday at age 96. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Glickman was born and raised in Portland, serving in the Army during World War II. He fought in the European theater with the 12th Armored Division and was awarded the Bronze Star. When he returned, he attended the University of Oregon. He is survived by his wife, Joanne, son Marshall, daughters Jennifer and Lynn, grandsons Joel and Laz, and granddaughter Sydney.

Bill Walton, one of the players who led the Blazers to their 1977 championship, wrote a letter to Glickman on the Blazers website, thanking him for his passion and drive.

“Harry, you are the Portland Trail Blazers,” Walton wrote. “We are so lucky to be a small part of your glorious and all-encompassing spirit, thank you, for your life, which has given us ours.”

With the NBA season suspended due to COVID-19 and the remainder of the season to be played without fans, the Blazers plan to honor Glickman at a later date.

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