The Claudia's AAU basketball team dominated the AAU league in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Claudia’s AAU basketball team dominated the AAU league in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sonia Halverson

Long before Clyde Drexler landed his first jump shot or Damian Lillard was named Rookie of the Year, Portland was home to another team of basketball stars. Between 1963 and 1985, Claudia’s, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team sponsored by Claudia’s Tavern, dominated the elite Portland league.  

“It was really kind of a big deal at the time,” says Frank Peters, who played on the team from 1965 to 1970. “When you got out of college, there was only ten NBA teams. There was no European teams, there was no South American teams, so you played AAU ball and you came and you played Claudia’s.”  

For filmmakers Sonia Halvorson and Teri Danielson, telling this story was a no brainer.  

“Teri grew up hearing stories from her dad about his years playing for Claudia’s AAU basketball team in the early 1960s,” says Halvorson. “The stories were endlessly entertaining about guys named Spitz, Pudgy and Goose. When it came time to pick a story for NW Documentary Workshop DIY Documentary, she didn’t hesitate.”  

During its 22-year run, Claudia’s saw many top-notch basketball players, including Dale Schleuter, who went on to play for the Portland Trail Blazers in 1978. But despite the team’s stellar reputation, the players weren’t in it for fame or glory.  

“We just had fun,” says Greg Smith. “There was no divisional title we were worried about, there was no big contract we were worried about, points in the paper weren’t important. And just trying to win the game was the most important part and getting back here to Claudia’s to talk about the game.”  

Claudia’s basketball run ended in 1983 when the league folded, but Claudia’s tavern is still open for business in SE Portland. In fact, the former players gathered there for one more post-game pint recently: to watch “Claudia’s,” Halvorson and Danielson’s documentary about their team.  

OPB is pleased to present “Claudia’s” as part of the 2017 Oregon Lens Film Festival, which showcases some of the best independent films in the Pacific Northwest.