Issue 17: Basketball on TV: Portlandia

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Issue 17: Basketball on TV: Portlandia

Not every TV show has basketball players appear on episodes, but luckily, plenty of them do. And we’re diving into one of those shows today: Portlandia, which is a delightful look at suburban life in Portland.

If you’re not familiar with Portlandia, its stars, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, play a series of characters in small vignettes. There are callbacks throughout both individual episodes and the entire series, and it’s just a joy to watch.

Toni Rose and Candace Devereaux, owners of the Women and Women First bookstore, are two of the more memorable characters in the show.

In one episode, Toni and Candace lament that the only way women get on the court during NBA games is if they’re dancing.

The bookstore owners persuade the Portland Trail Blazers to host run a poetry night, letting the dancers read their favorite prose in lieu of performing a dance routine.

After the game, the players seem upset, so Toni and Candace pay them a visit.

The team is down because they lost, but Candace and Toni won’t have any of it. They tell the players that, tonight, their last name is “Woman” instead of whatever their name actually is. Candace shares a story about dating Michael Jordan, and by the end, the owners of Women and Women First have unveiled a foolproof strategy for the Blazers to win their next game.

This scene demonstrates the power of having multiple NBA cameos on a show. Players spend so much time together, and they seem a lot more comfortable when they’re sharing the screen with their teammates.

It helps that there are several outgoing NBA personalities in this scene already. C.J. McCollum studied journalism and hosts a podcast. Damian Lillard has released three rap albums. Robin Lopez is a Disney-obsessed goofball.

Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge is a fan of the show and you’ll catch him nearly breaking out laughing at least once in this scene.

I’m also very impressed with Thomas Robinson. His “I think that’s flying” is delivered with just the right amount of understated cynicism. Robinson hasn’t played in the NBA since 2017, but he’s still got a place in our hearts, thanks to this scene.

While this scene is likely the most memorable, Lillard and Aldridge actually made multiple appearances on the show during its run.

Aldridge first showed up two years prior, stopping by as the boyfriend of Barbara, who founded the Women and Women First bookstore. See? Portlandia is always tying things together!

Aldridge didn’t have much to do in his first visit to the Portlandia set, but he apparently made quite the impression. Shortly after his episode, Brownstein visited the power forward with a special gift: a Blazers jersey with a bird on it.

The gesture was an homage to perhaps the show’s most popular (and ridiculous) sketch: “Put a bird on it.”

If you do nothing else today, watch that bird sketch. It’s amazing.

Lillard, meanwhile, came back around for the Season 7, Episode 6 “Friend Replacement” episode. After one of her friends gets married, Brownstein heads to a convention to find a new pal. The gist of the event is that it’s all of her acquaintances and friends of friends that she’s hoping to turn into just friends.

First of all, this is a genius idea that should be implemented in real life.

Secondly, Brownstein meets an acquaintance (played by Armisen) who invites her to a party at his house. When she arrives, he’s chatting it up with Lillard, who quickly reveals to Brownstein that he’s not really friends with Armisen’s character, despite the character repeatedly blowing up Lillard’s phone. We’ve all been there, amirite?

In any case, all ends well when Lillard and Brownstein agree to become friends. Here’s to a long-lasting friendship of shooting hoops and avoiding Fred Armisen.

Want more basketball cameos on TV? See the NBA guest spots on Parks and Rec.

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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