The stage is set… Game 4 of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. The Dallas Mavericks are up 2 games to 1 against the Portland Trailblazers. What happened next will go down in the history books as one of the greatest performances in NBA history. But first, let’s go back in time a bit…
Brandon Roy has always been a good player. No one is ever truly shocked when he comes up big in a game. But little is known of the adversity this man has faced over the years. Starting back in high school as one of the best players in the country at Garfield (Seattle), Roy had considered declaring for the draft but instead opted to attend college. Yet, even that became a challenge. Due to a learning disability that was discovered in which his reading comprehension was low, it took him four tries to pass the SAT with help from tutors.
Roy, thinking that he might not be able to get into the University of Washington then took a job working on the docks. Cleaning out shipping containers. The once promising talent had gone from on court star to off the court everyday worker. But like most adversity in Brandon’s life, he did achieve his goal. He did make it to Washington and like most things in his life, he achieved success. Roy flirted multiple times with entering the NBA Draft, but ended up staying all four years. He seriously considered the NBA Draft after his junior year, but opted to return to school after fellow UW player Nate Robinson went in the draft as well as commitment player Martell Webster. Returning for his senior season, Roy had a tremendous year, averaging 20.2 points a game. Leading the Huskies to a number 5 seed and the Sweet 16 before being knocked out in a close game with Connecticut Huskies.
Now, you would think that the road ahead for Brandon Roy would be silky smooth after this right? Not exactly.
Fast forward to draft night… June 28, 2006.
Brandon Roy was selected 6th overall in a draft that featured several trades. Roy who was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves was among that group of players. Being traded for Randy Foye (Villanova) and sent to the Portland Trailblazers. Even on draft night, things didn’t go easy. Being traded on his first night of the NBA.
Being a number 6 pick in the NBA Draft, expectations are high. Yet, those players are not expected to do what Brandon Roy did. When you think Rookie of the Year, you think one of the top 2 or 3 players in the NBA Draft. In this case, Andrea Bargnani (1), LeMarcus Aldridge (2) or Adam Morrison (3) were the heavy favorites for the 2006-2007 NBA Rookie of the Year. That season, Brandon Roy blew the competition away. He won the Rookie of the Year almost unanimously with 127 first place votes to Bargnani’s 1 vote. Averaging 16.8 points a game in his rookie season in Portland.
The next few seasons in Roy’s career included All-Star teams, NBA Playoffs and in what was becoming common… adversity. Even in his Rookie of the Year campaign he only played in 57 games due to injury. The following season, he hurt his ankle right before the All-Star game. In 2008, in somewhat of a precursor to today, he had irritable cartilage removed from his knee. But none of that ever held Roy back. He went on to score 52 points versus Phoenix, score game winners, and lead Portland. In a city with loyalty, that beloved their stars, Brandon Roy was that guy. A perfect fit for a city like Portland. And they showed his the love and respect that he had so rightly deserved.
Injuries continued to plague Roy though…
Heroes are born, from desperation, from heroic acts, from standing up in a crowd and saying that challenge will be met.
April 16, 2010 Brandon Roy underwent surgery for a torn meniscus tear in his knee. He was expected to miss the first and possibly the second round of the playoffs if Portland made it that far. In the first round, Portland was up against the favored Phoenix Suns… They were down 2 games to 1, and with 4:06 left in the first quarter, Rocky playing throughout the arena, checking in the game was Brandon Roy. Roy would will his team to victory. Contributing 10 points in just over 26 minutes of playing time.
Will power. Fortitude. Guts. That’s what I think of when I think the name Brandon Roy. So with all that said, what happened last night in Portland and as well in game 3, that should surprise no one.
Brandon Roy underwent more knee surgery this year. So much so that doctors said he would never be the same player again. Team doctors said he should not play more than 15-20 minutes a game ever again. That with no cartilage left in his knees, the Brandon Roy we all know was done. Like all great players, it doesn’t matter how much you think you can do, if your body fails then so does your game.
Roy, now a celebrated backup. Still a beloved figure in Portland. Relegated to not only being off the bench, but not even Nate McMillian’s first option off of the bench. All that came to a head after game 2 of the playoff series versus the Dallas Mavericks. Upset, hurt and even angry… Roy lashed out. Stating he felt he deserved better. He was better. He could do better.
Brandon, being the team guy that he is later apologized before game 3 to the press and his team. Saying the focus should be on the team, not himself. But inside you could see it. A fire was lit. Not just for Roy, but among the Portland fanbase. While supporting their team, they too longed to see the return of their hero. And they would get it.
Game 3 there was something in the air. Brandon Roy came into the game late in the first quarter. And just like that, he was back. Hitting shot after shot. Assist after assist. Brandon Roy on 6-10 shooting rang up 16 points off the bench. Sparking the Blazers to a 97-92 home win versus the Mavs. For a player that experts had written off. Maybe even written off by a head coach that had known him since he was a high school senior at Garfield. Roy had come up big when his team desperately needed him to come up big. If only for a night, he gave hope to a city that they could play with the mighty Dallas Mavericks and compete in this series. But could he do it again? Would his knees hold up and allow Roy to be Brandon Roy? Was he done?
In a word… NO!
Legends are made when impossible situations are made possible.
Game 4, Brandon Roy did what few others could have. He not only willed the Blazers to a 23 point come back… He led it! Down 67-44 in the last minute of the 3rd quarter. Brandon Roy sparked one of the greatest come backs in NBA history! In the 4th quarter, Roy could not be stopped! He had 18 of his 24 points in the 4th. Including a rare 4 point play. Leading Portland to a 84-82 victory at home. Legend is made of games like these. Last night, Brandon did every thing. He was the man. He was legend.
Am I overhyping the situation? I don’t think I am. Years from now, this game will be on the Classics. Its already an instant classic. For Dallas fans, it’s not that big of a deal. They go back home tied 2 games a piece and still with home court advantage. But for Portland fans this gives hope. Not just for this series, but for their hero. That maybe, just maybe he can be what they so wishfully hope he can be. Realistically that might not be the case. I doubt you will see Brandon Roy starting game 5 or any game this series or next year for that matter. But what it does say is that if his body cooperates, that Brandon Roy is capable of being Brandon Roy on any given night.
Brandon Roy is truly an inspiration to many and deservedly so.