Thanksgiving is usually reserved for football — but not this year. From Nov. 23–26, 2017, Portland hosted one of the biggest college basketball tournaments ever put together: the PK80 Phil Knight Invitational. The mega-tourney is a celebration of Knight, the co-founder of shoe and sportswear giant Nike, who turns 80 in February.
HOW THE PK80 WORKS
The tournament showcased some of the most successful schools in the history of men’s college basketball. Defending 2017 NCAA Champions the University of North Carolina headlined the stacked lineup. Duke University, University of Oregon, Michigan State and Gonzaga University also played.
There was a total of 16 men’s teams, including locals Portland State University and University of Portland. The tourney lasted for four days, at two neighboring facilities: Moda Center and Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
With national coverage on ESPN and the sheer amount of talent involved, the PK80 was one of the grandest collections of college basketball royalty ever assembled.
“I don’t know that you’ll ever see anything like this again,” said Chris Oxley, senior vice president of venue operations for the Portland Trail Blazers. “These are pretty significant commitments that these teams are making to honor Mr. Knight. It’s a major commitment by some of the best collegiate basketball teams in the country.”
Colleges were divided into two eight-team brackets, each with a catchy, Nike-inspired name: “Victory” and “Motion.” The first bracket takes its name directly from Nike, which is named after the Greek goddess of victory. (According to Knight’s autobiography, his initial idea was to name his future billion-dollar empire “Dimension Six.” Obviously, the Nike moniker won out.) The “Motion” bracket is inspired by the Swoosh logo, designed by Portland State University student Carolyn Davidson in 1971. The iconic symbol represents the wings of the goddess Nike.
A one-day women’s basketball doubleheader also took place at the Matthew Knight Arena at the University of Oregon in Eugene, 110 miles (177 km) south of Portland. The Oregon women’s basketball team faced Oklahoma, while the University of Connecticut matched up against Michigan State.
For hometown hero and University of Portland Pilots men’s coach Terry Porter, the PK80 presented a chance to highlight local hoops on a national scale.
“Being a part of this remarkable tournament field has been impactful in recruiting already,” said Porter. “With so many new players on our roster this season, fans are going to get to see a new version of the Portland Pilots.” Porter, who played for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers from 1985–1995, started coaching at University of Portland in 2016.
The Pilots were matched up against North Carolina for their first game. “With such a young team, we just have to come out and play with no pressure,” Porter said. “We have nothing to lose and if we play with energy and compete from start to finish, I will be happy.”
It’s a challenge that Porter and the Pilots were looking forward to. Porter, whose jersey was retired by the Blazers in 2008, was ecstatic to be back in the Rose City after more than a decade spent coaching NBA teams across the country.
“The city embraced me as a person, and the Trail Blazers as a franchise, unlike any other place I’ve been in my career,” said Porter. “It is truly my home.”
When all was said and done, the Duke Blue Devils made a glorious comeback to beat the Florida Gators 87–84 within the Motion Bracket, while the Michigan State Spartans beat the North Carolina Tar Heels 63–45 in the Victory Bracket.