Up close: McMillan reflects on his first-ever dunk

An excerpt from this week’s Blazer page.

Up close
Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan is known for his steely, unshakable demeanor during games. While his players sprint up and down the court, McMillan is often seen standing rock-like on the sideline, with crossed arms and unreadable thoughts. That image sometimes transfers to McMillan’s interview sessions with the media, during which he can at times be abrupt and closed off.

But another side of McMillan often emerges during more natural, candid moments that follow practices and precede games. McMillan as a jokester and tease; Sarge as a fun-natured, playful person who soaks up everything the world of professional basketball has to offer.

McMillan’s candid side shined through after Portland’s shootaround last Wednesday at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore. The Blazers had left the court, and a young boy attempting to dunk a basketball caught McMillan’s attention. Soon, the eager ballhandler asked McMillan to watch him take flight and slam the ball home. Before the audition, though, McMillan opened up his past. Smiling wide and deeply laughing, McMillan told the boy about his first-ever dunk.

A wide-eyed McMillan was alone inside a gymnasium. To pick up the speed and jumping height required for a slam, McMillan was forced to use a running start and bounce the ball off the floor. “Just like Spud Webb,” McMillan said. But he was soon flying through the air, and he completed his initial true dunk. The only problem? No one was watching. So, McMillan quickly ran home to relate the all-important news to his friends and family. The response was predictable. “No one believed me,” said a beaming McMillan.

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