Through a sea of trading cards and autographed jerseys and posters hung on the wall, sat a young Portland Trail Blazer who was eager to tip-off his first official meet and greet.
An hour before The SportsRoom on SW Hall in Beaverton, Oregon opened its doors at 1:00pm on Sunday, roughly one hundred Blazer fans stood in line eager to mingle with Trail Blazer rookie Nassir Little.
The line wrapped around the building with fans both young and old.
As the doors opened, Little told his agent, with a big smile on his face, he was ready.
There was excitement exuding from Little. He looked just as happy to meet the fans, as they were to meet him.
The Rip City faithful standing in line, made comments about how cool it was to be able to have a photo and autograph opportunity from a Trail Blazer. One young fan, added he thought this was the first Trail Blazers meet and greet in Beaverton.
“It was pretty awesome, being face-to-face with an NBA player, it was sweet,” Trail Blazers fan Xavier Judge said.
“Thank you, I appreciate it,” is what Little told Trail Blazer fan William Onwall.
There Little was sitting at his very own meet and greet, and he was thanking the fans for coming out to see him.
“This was my first [meet and greet],” Little said after meeting the hundreds of Blazers fans that made their way to The SportsRoom. “I’m excited how it turned out. It was cool to meet some fans and get some support out here.”
Fans were eager to share some nice words with the Blazer rookie. One fan even said, “hey, how about you win rookie of the year?!”
Other fans told Little, “nice to meet you, [I’m a] big fan, honored to meet you."
"You know, that’s really humbling for me,” Little said. “All the hard work I’ve put in to have people appreciate that it means a lot.”
This particular event was also near and dear to the 19-year-old’s heart because of where it was held.
Little grew up collecting trading cards, and in fact, he still has “albums of cards back home.”
For the North Carolina Tar Heel star to hold his first big-time event as a professional athlete at a sports collector shop was very special to Little.
“I had signed jerseys from some of my favorite players, and just kind of being able to pay that forward, that’s really important,” Little said.
Putting it simply, Little describes the Trail Blazer fans base as “nice.”
“People in Portland are just nice, it’s kind of crazy how nice they are, but I love it,” Little said with a big smile.
He also already understands the Portland community is an extremely tight knit group who has been welcoming him with open arms.
“From ladies to kids two years old, and then you’ve got older people. So, it shows how wide the fan base is, and how much people are interested in basketball out here,” Little said.
Chris Tinder, who is the current owner of The SportsRoom, was pleased to have such a big event in his shop.
The SportsRoom has been open since 1984, which makes it one of the oldest sports card shops in the Portland metropolitan area. Over the years, it has changed hands a few times. Tinder and his wife have been the proud owners of The SportsRoom for the past year and a half. Tinder says he is the fifth or sixth owner of the sports shop.
“Loyal” is how Tinder describes Trail Blazers fans.
“Very loyal… We’ve been underdogs the last few years and we keep just going further and further in the playoffs… I think the sky is the limit with this team and where we could go,” Tinder said.
“I’m excited to see what this kid can bring to the team,” Tinder said of Little.
As for Blazer fan Jeannie Pastega, she has been a Trail Blazer fan since the team brought home the hardware in 1977.
She believes the organization is due for another Championship.
Jeannie grew up in Portland. She has always been a big fan of Trail Blazer players for what they do on the court, as well as what they do in the community.
Little is off to a good start in Jeannie’s book.
“He’s a fabulous young man, a very nice young man. I hope he has a lot of success with the Trail Blazers,” she said after Little autographed her copy of Beckett Basketball Magazine.
I think it is fair to say that all of Rip City agrees with Jeannie. Let's all hope there is a lot of success in Little's future.