The Portland Dynasty: Taking Tibetan Basketball Over!
This story was featured as a cover story in Tibetan World Magazine. It chronicles the story of my basketball team from Portland, OR (USA).
January 2005: Volume 1, Issue 7
The Portland Dynasty
Taking Tibetan Basketball Over!
A conversation about Tibetan basketball is incomplete without mention of the undefeated Portland ‘A’ basketball team, a.k.a. PDX. Just in case you are wondering who they are then let me share with you the story of PDX from the Pacific Northwest that have been dominating Tibetan hoops for almost half a decade. After four consecutive Tibetan West Coast Picnic (WCP) championships, word of Portland’s Dynasty has spread across Tibetan communities worldwide faster than a pair of classic Air Jordan’s. From the past, to the present and a look into the future, this is the story of the Portland ‘A’ basketball team. If you thought you knew, you had no idea.
The Dynasty – past
The Portland chemistry is a formula that may be hard to recreate, because this team learned the meaning of teamwork from their families over 40 years ago. Many of their parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1960s. At the time there were a limited number of Tibetans in the United States. Their parents were the first to lay roots in northwestern Oregon and began raising children in the 1970s. Although some families lived hours away from each other, gatherings took place occasionally to celebrate many Tibetan cultural events. In addition to Tibetan holidays, their children’s birthdays were an opportunity for celebration for this once small community. In 1984, the community hosted the first of two visits the Dalai Lama made to Oregon.
The Dynasty begins – the present run of championships/event overview
Having spent a large portion of their childhood together, PDX members spent their late teenage years apart. Many members of the team attended different high schools and it wasn’t until 2001 when discussion began to start a basketball team. Ever since the team was formulated for the WCP championships in Seattle, there has been no looking back. The Portland ‘A’ team consists of players: 8 born in United States, 2 born in India, and one born in Nepal. Their chemistry on the court can be attributed to years of competing against each other in various sports while growing up. In the summer of 2001 they began focusing their energy collectively and thus, the Dynasty began. This event (WCP), which is held every year over the first weekend of July to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday, consists of cultural shows and talent competitions. On top of these two programs, it is a great way for Tibetans to meet and bond with each other, a good means to raise awareness, and families use it as a reunion purpose. Recently sporting events have been introduced and over the years they have grown to wild popularity from all ages.
Sports teams from all over the western United States as well as the Midwest and Canada are attracted to this event for one single reason – to be a part of “history in the making”.
2001: At the 2001 WCP in Seattle, PDX burst onto the scene by beating Toronto 54-27 in the first round, Portland’s own ‘B’ team 66-24 and eventually Vancouver, B.C. in the finals. Vancouver, B.C., who were once WCP champions in 1998 lost to Portland “A” in overtime. In the years to follow, PDX would demolish teams with no remorse. At the same time, family members from opposing teams would know the outcome before the games even started and were only left to hope their sons would keep it competitive.
2002: In 2002, Portland had home-court advantage for the first time during their run of championships. As the host city, expectations were high for a repeat and the team would not disappoint. Portland drew the 1999 WCP champions, Seattle in the first round. This match-up of players very familiar with one another was expected to help Seattle; however, PDX would crush the former champions 38-13. The second round would be more of a challenge, as a determined Los Angeles (LA) team managed to stay within three points at the half. LA eventually would run out of steam as PDX coasted in the second-half winning 48-22. The least eventful game of the tournament proved to be the finals, as a lethargic San Francisco team had no answer for a determined unit on a mission who succumbed to the pressure losing bad 51-22.
2003: In 2003, the now back-to-back WCP champs were given a deserving first round bye. After a one-year absence, Toronto returned to the WCP championships and faced Portland “B” in the quarterfinals. Although the ‘B’ team would later lose to San Francisco, their win over Toronto provided a glimpse into the bright future for the community. Portland ‘A’s’ first game in 2003 was against a new-look Seattle team. The relentless Portland defense gave San Francisco no room to breathe, as they eventually crushed the Bay again by the score of 80 – 64.
2004: The 2004 WCP championships in San Francisco were expected to be one of the most competitive Tibetan basketball tournaments in recent history. After a first-round bye, Portland faced a gritty, but overmatched Denver squad. PDX began the game on a 17-1 run and eventually sent the Mile High City packing 54-28. After beating cross-state rivals SF in the semi-finals, LA finally got their rematch versus Portland. In 2002, LA trailed by only 3 points at the half only to be overwhelmed in the second. Two years later they would fare no better. After racing out to a 10-0 run to start the game, Portland appeared to relax and allowed LA to chip away at their lead. However, in the end LA realized that it would take a full 40 minutes of the best basketball of their lives to end the Dynasty and it became apparent 2004 was not going to be their year. Portland took their game to another level ultimately winning by the score of 76-51 and securing an unprecedented forth-straight WCP championship. There is no secret now after 4 consecutive titles and jaw dropping performances that Portland is the definition of basketball excellence. Many teams travel long distances just to get a chance to compete with this team.
The Dynasty – the future
Little argument remains today who the best Tibetan basketball team is, but PDX insists their business is not finished. The team is expressing strong interest in playing at the 2005 Midwest Picnic championships in Minnesota, but still remain uncommitted barring the conditions of the still growing tournament. The move out east will undoubtedly leave their west coast championship up for grabs. As teams on the west coast scramble to pick up a title in their absence, Portland is determined on going east to conquer and end even the smallest whisper of doubt. If all goes as planned, the team will most likely make an appearance in Toronto and New York City in the coming years before heading back to the Pacific Northwest for semi-retirement. The team has expressed an interest in hosting an annual tournament in the future with hopes in growing the popularity of basketball among Tibetans worldwide.
The Tibetan West Coast Picnic – The History
In recent years, Tibetan basketball has become an increasingly popular sport among Tibetans and the Portland dynasty has only fueled this excitement. Tibetan basketball tournaments can be found popping up all over North America. In addition to the numerous west coast cities: Toronto, New York City, Minnesota and Boston are a few of the many that have shown strong interest in the sport. However, the granddaddy of all Tibetan basketball tournaments is the West Coast Picnic championships, which began in 1998. Although the southwest Washington and Oregon Tibetan community organized and hosted the first West Coast Picnic in 1996, basketball was not added to the weekend event until two years later. What once started as a relatively small gathering of Tibetan communities on the west coast has now evolved into the largest annual gathering in the United States. Celebrated over the 4th of July weekend and culminating on the Dalai Lama’s birthday, the WCP is approaching its 9th year in 2005.
The Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association
The once small community of Tibetans in northwest Oregon has now evolved into the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association (NWTCA), which represents over 230 Tibetans in southwest Washington and Oregon. Portland is sponsored by the NWTCA and has been presenting their championship trophies to the organization since 2001. The NWTCA was formally established in 1993 to create a spiritual and cultural home for local residents. The organizations achievements to-date include hosting the second visit by the Dalai Lama to Oregon in May of 2001.The four-day event, called “Pathways to Peace” was attended by thousands of residents from the Pacific Northwest. NWTCA is currently working towards creating a Tibetan Studies and World Peace Center. The team members can often be seen volunteering at various NWTCA events throughout the year, helping the organization promote education about the Tibetan culture. As community role models, various team members also take part in the NWTCA Tibetan Youth Summer Camp, created to help children learn about their culture. Having graduated from college or currently attending, the team stresses the importance of education while providing a basketball clinic during the weeklong camp.