Portland’s 20 Biggest Sports Stories of 2016: Part 1


A lot happened in Portland last year.

The Blazers made an unexpected run at the playoffs while the Timbers failed to make it back. Jesuit High School was named the nation’s No. 1 athletic program and the Rose City Rollers secured another roller derby championship. We landed a new baseball team – but we lost an arena football team.

Sure, many of us are glad to kick 2016 to the curb. But before we say good riddance to the year that was, let’s take one final look at the biggest sports stories in Portland.

Today we’ll look at the first half of our list: No. 20 through No. 11. Tomorrow we’ll dive into the Top 10.

20. ESPN’s SportsCenter comes to Portland

July 23 – When the LA Galaxy visited Providence Park on July 23rd, ESPN tagged along and aired “SportsCenter On the Road” live from the stadium. Among other things, they interviewed Timbers owner Merritt Paulson and featured a video essay by Neil Everett, “Ode to Portland.”

19. Announcement of the Phil Knight Classic

Sept. 21 – Portland will host the most star-studded NCAA early-season basketball tournament that college fans have ever seen. Nike announced the participating teams of The Phil Knight Classic in September, boasting schools like Duke, North Carolina, U-Conn, Michigan State, Gonzaga and Oregon. Both Portland State and the University of Portland will join, along with eight other teams. Two eight-team tournaments will be held at the same time for the celebration of Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.

18. Damian Lillard’s new Adidas shoes pay homage to Rip City

Oct. 31 – Adidas launched a new version of Damian Lillard’s signature sneakers this fall. The D Lillard 2 Primeknit “Rip City” pays homage to the city he plays in and plays for, updating his second signature silo with Primeknit construction and a team-themed color code. Retailing for $120, look for these to launch online at adidas this Saturday.

17. Portland Marathoners run extra half-mile

Oct. 9 – Some runners in the vaunted Portland Marathon ended up running about a half mile too far. Then, at the conclusion of the race, winner Matthew Padilla of Bend never received his trophy, which went to the third place finisher, Nate Bowen of Los Altos, California.

16. Portland Steel replace Portland Thunder

Feb. 24 – The Arena Football League took operations of the Portland Thunder away from previous owner Terry Emmert. Four weeks later, AFL commissioner Scott C. Butera announced that the team would be re-branded as the Portland Steel. Steel general manager and head coach Ron James said the Steel name is intended to display toughness.

15. Portland hosts IAAF World Championship

March 17 – Portland hosted the IAAF World Championship in March, bringing more than 39,000 fans to the Oregon Convention Center. The final day saw medal ceremonies in Pioneer Courthouse Square. “That was the coolest medal ceremony I’ve ever experienced, by far,” Brianne Theisen-Eaton said.

14. UFC returns to Portland

Oct. 1 – Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Portland in October. UFC Fight Night 96 went down inside Moda Center. In the main event of the evening, John Lineker edged out John Dodson in a highly-entertaining five-round fight via split decision to earn his sixth straight win.

13. Portland Pickles begin inaugural season

June 10 – On a chilly summer evening in Lents Park, baseball officially made its grand return to the City of Roses. A sellout crowd of nearly 2,000 baseball fans and fun-seekers smiled, laughed and cheered as the Portland Pickles christened a renovated Charles B. Walker Stadium with a hard-fought extra-inning battle against the Marysville Gold Sox on June 10. The Pickles finished their inaugural season in third place, falling just short of a playoff berth

12. West Linn wins State, caps perfect season

Dec. 3 – No. 1 West Linn made history in December, winning its first football state championship with a dominating 62-7 victory over No. 7 Central Catholic at Providence Park. The Lions began the year ranked No. 1 after losing 21-14 to Jesuit in the state championship game last season and left no doubt all year who the best team was.

11. Rose City Rollers repeat as Champions

Nov. 6 – The Rose City Rollers came from way behind to knock off Gotham (New York) Girls Roller Derby 186-166 in November’s thrilling final bout of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Division 1 international championships at Memorial Coliseum. The rough-and-tumble showdown of WFTDA titans capped three days of competition at the coliseum

Check back tomorrow for Portland’s Top 10 Sports Stories of 2016.

Jake Donahue
Jake Donahue is more of a Ron Burgundy than he is a Ben Simmons. He does have a background in journalism, sports writing and marketing, though. And he owns the Donahue Media Group, a local web design and project management company, as well as a real estate marketing firm, Portland Picture. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, he grew up a Mariner fan before launching his own Little League coaching career.