In the midst of all the turmoil and uncertainty of this past off-season, we as fans lost many things. We were forced to sacrifice games and months, preparation and anticipation. But, perhaps the biggest casualty of the summer season was the untimely retirement of Brandon Roy.
What appeared to be a blossoming career for “The Natural” was ended far too soon as a result of injury. Roy was a franchise player who captained a Portland team on the rise. At only 27 years of age, he was just entering his prime and all signs pointed to stardom. In 2007, Roy was almost unanimously voted Rookie of the Year. Then, in each of his next three seasons, he was elected to the All Star Game. Sadly though, the 2011 campaign would prove to be his last, as he battled a degenerative knee condition, one in which multiple surgeries could not fix.
Walking away from the game with career averages of 19 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per contest, Roy was a special talent. Unfortunately, it was a talent that went largely unnoticed as a result of playing for a smaller market team and, more truthfully, due to his own humility. Brandon’s personality was a lot like his game itself. Nothing flashy, although he certainly had his undeniable moments of greatness, but steadiness was his truest characteristic. Which, in my mind, is the most important quality that one can possess, both in life and basketball. Roy’s ability to be his best, in every moment of every game is what set him apart from the rest of the league.
Roy once said, “My No. 1 goal is to win. Not to be the MVP. Not to be the All-Star.” That mentality showed through clearly in the way he played the game. A team player who was almost selfless to a fault, Roy would just quietly go about his business each and every night, doing all that he could to bring forth victory.
I remember watching Portland take on the Suns back in the 2009 season, it would turn out to be perhaps the most exciting game of the year. Roy paced the Blazers throughout the first three quarters, keeping it close. Statistically he was having an above average night, but you would never guess it unless you checked the box-score periodically throughout. He continuously knocked down shots and did his damage, but all the while keeping each of his teammates involved. Midway through the fourth quarter of a neck and neck game, Roy asked his coach, Nate McMillan, if he was was being too selfish, as his point total was considerably higher then each of his teammates. McMillan scoffed at the idea, taken aback by the question, as the greatness Roy was displaying on the court made any notion of his concern prepostorous. Without hesitation, McMillan told him to be even more aggressive. After that reassurance Roy went out and completed what would be the best game of his career, scoring 52 points, while adding 6 assists and 5 rebounds for good measure. Most importantly though, in his eyes, was the victory he secured.
The NBA and we as fans lost a true great one this year. Professional sports need more players like Brandon Roy. Humble and genuine, he played the game with class, the way it should be played. Never referring to “his talents” as some players do, but merely using them to the best of his ability in a team first effort each and every night.
2004 Defensive Player of the Year, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest (Now Metta World Peace), once referred to Roy as the best player he had ever faced. Artest went on to say that Roy was the best shooting guard in the league, ahead of 5 time NBA champion and teammate, Kobe Bryant. However, if you were to ask any novice basketball fan who Brandon Roy was, they would most likely respond with a shrug. That’s because he wasn’t about the celebrity, the commercials, or the fanfare. There was only one spotlight that Roy cared to be in, and that was the one that shone when the game was on the line. There was no player in the league who I would trust more with a game winning shot then Brandon Roy, that kid had ice water in his veins. Smooth and steady, he always found a way to get the job done.
I’m sad to see my favorite player’s career end so abruptly, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to have seen him play. And while he slipped away as modest and gracefully as he had played the game, with many people still unaware of his presence in the league, we as fans and the NBA as a whole are better for having witnessed Brandon Roy’s brilliant, albeit brief career.
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