“I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.” — Muhammad Ali
Not even an uncharacteristic sunny December morning could brighten the gloom that befell Portland this last Friday. The Franchise and the Face of Rose City, Brandon Roy, sadly decided to call it quits due to prolonged injury to both of his knees. If you live outside of Portland, this merely represents another unlucky story of premature retirement. What you don’t know, is the presence and magnitude that B-Roy brought to Portland upon arriving in early 2007. I arrived in Ptown in late 2006, and witnessed first hand an absolute embarrassment of a team and an even more dismal sports city. Those were the Dark Ages, you may remember it as the Jailblazers Era:
Forward Qyntel Woods pled guilty to first-degree animal abuse for staging dog fights in his house, some involving his pit bull named Hollywood. Rasheed Wallace was suspended for seven games for threatening a referee. Zach Randolph and Ruben Patterson got in a fight during practice, with Randolph sucker punching his teammate in the eye, an injury which kept Patterson from making a meaningful contribution during the playoffs. Forward Darius Miles called out coach Maurice Cheeks in a homosexual and racial slurred tirade. Police came to guard Damon Stoudamire’s house to respond to a burglar alarm, they noticed the smell of marijuana, searched the premises, and found a pound of cannabis located in a crawlspace. Guard Bonzi Wells famously told Sports Illustrated in a 2002 interview:
“The fans really don’t matter to us. They can boo us every day, but they’re still going to ask for our autographs if they see us on the street.”
And that is how you hit rock bottom.
Owner Paul Allen actually put the team on the market, but ultimately decided to clean house, fire all upper level management, and build a team focused on young aggressive talent. Enter one of the greatest drafts in NBA history, where the Trailblazers drafted two future all-stars and built a half-decade foundation in 1 night. The jewel and mortar of that 2006 draft: Brandon Roy.
“It is not the light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” — Frederick Douglas
The “Natural” from Seattle, brought all three to the City of Roses. After winning Rookie of the Year honors, 22 year old Brandon Roy basically picked up an entire city, took it under his wing, and stormed Portland out of the trenches and onto the national scene. Portland went from being an absolute embarrassment to a contender in minutes. The Golden State Warriors still haven’t rebounded from the RUN TMC Era, and that was over 20 years ago. I for one am eternally grateful to Mr. Roy, and I have my reasons –
December 18, 2008 – Thanks to my bud Jimmie, I was in attendance to witness Brandon drop a career high 52 spot on the Phoenix Suns. It was one of the most mesmerizing performances I have seen, as Roy essentially could not and would not miss and led the Blazers to a W in overtime. After the game Roy commented, ” “I can’t say the basket was big, but my confidence was huge tonight. I just felt like every shot I took was going to go in.” And they did, all night long.
April 23, 2010 Game 4 Western Conference Quarterfinals. After losing game 3 and only playing very limited minutes, Brandon went vocal about his dissatisfaction with his role in the playoffs. This illustrated my favorite part of the guy. His passion, heart, and fire. He’s going to tell you he’s pissed off, he’s not going to hide it, but more importantly he’s going to back it up on the court to make sure you know it and that you give him his due respect. 2 days later, Roy went lights out down the stretch, notching 18 4th quarter points to take down the future champion Dallas Mavericks. His post-game expression was priceless, it was part smile, part sneer, and a whole lot of F-You to the haters. Mark Cuban still holds that that Blazer team, with Roy hitting shots, was the hardest team he faced in the 2010 playoffs. Take that D-Wade, Bron, and Bosh.
Greatest game I have ever witnessed, especially because of my brother Johnny’s post game commentary. If you have time check out the 4 minute video. If not at least marvel in the last 20 seconds. Brandon Roy in a matter of minutes goes from Hero (fade-away jumper with 2 seconds left to take the lead) to Zero (fouling Yao Ming, who hits the free throw to re-take the lead) to DEITY (Drilling a prayer while virtually falling out of bounds). 5 points in 1.9 seconds. Just watch.
This game also led to one of my favorite Johnny Wheary stories. I had to plead and convince JJ to come with me to this event, his first ever NBA game. The game goes into overtime, and JJ slowly turns and states, “Wow, this is actually pretty cool.” Later, B-Roy works his magic, hits the gamewinner, and bedlam ensues at the Rose Garden. I glance over at JJ, who is hugging a Grandma and going ballistic. He looks back at me and says, “Dude, Chuck is this how most NBA games end?!?” Yes JJ, every single one.
Brandon Roy could make a non-fan actually care about the battle on the hardwood. Everytime he laced up his kicks you got every ounce from him. I just gave you three nuggets, but everyone out there has a story about this guy. Thank you Brandon for the memories and for that finishing touch that’s sweeter than Tiramisu.