The Sonics and Blazers never had the most intense of rivalries. It wasn’t like the Red Sox-Yankees or Steelers-Ravens. It is, of course, the Pacific Northwest where it’s more likely fans of the rivals would bike to a Starbucks or local coffee shop to debate which team is better and in the end agree that at least they both hate the Lakers and shake hands. But despite the overall friendly atmosphere, the two developed a healthy rivalry for over three decades.
These two teams had all the makings for an intense rivalry. It was nicknamed the I-5 Rivalry because of the freeway that connects the two cities that are just 174 miles apart. Along with proximity, they are in two different states that have distinct cultures and worldviews. And to top it off they were in the same division. How could they not be rivals?
In the early going, when both teams were good it was a heated matchup. The Blazers won their only NBA title in 1977 and the Sonics won their only title just two years later. Over a six-year span bridging the ‘70s and ‘80s the two squared off three times in the playoffs with the Sonics taking two out of three. But more often than not, when one team was good the other was not.
It looked like the rivalry would be reignited when the Blazers had the top pick in the 2007 draft and the Sonics had the second pick. The Blazers selected Greg Oden and the Sonics picked Kevin Durant. It was going to be NBA's leading rivalry in the next decade. But just like that, it went poof! when the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2008 season.