Home > Uncategorized > Too Soon: Brandon Roy Forced to Retire

Too Soon: Brandon Roy Forced to Retire

Yesterday, I almost cried for completely indefensible reasons. There wasn’t a death in the family, nor was I choking up over the plight of the world’s suffering masses. I wasn’t even watching Brian’s Song. I admit it: I almost cried over a professional athlete, a multi-millionaire who lives in the type of luxury and ease that not even everyone in the 1% will enjoy.

But this wasn’t just any professional athlete. This was Brandon Roy.I first encountered Roy during my Blazer fandom “renaissance.” After losing track of them during my mission, and the “Jail Blazers” era, I became intrigued when my hometown team rattled offer a 14-game win streak, almost out of nowhere. It was love at first sight all over again, just like when I was 8 and rooting for Clyde the Glide to win the ’92 NBA Finals against the hated Michael Jordan. But unlike the Blazers of the 90s, which were always stacked with veterans and looking to contend every year, the Blazers I found in 2007 were completely different, a squad of freshmen and sophomores who were too
naive to not know that they weren’t ready to upset the establishment. And Roy was at the heart of that team. Everyone had their role, and his was biggest of all: Captain. Leader. Scorer. He was the only reliable offensive presence we had, and yet he carried it gracefully, just like his style of play.  Though he was young, he played years ahead of his peers (staying all four years in college helped, no doubt). Roy would eventually make the All-Star team (twice), then the All-NBA Second Team, and lead the Blazers back to the playoffs–and this time, there was the hope of improvement, the dream of that we were watching a contender develop before our eyes.

But the only reason the Blazers snagged Roy in the first place was because teams drafting ahead of them were worried about his knees. And like a dark secret from his past, those knees came back to derail him right as he was hitting his prime. There were a stretch of games here he was out, then a stretch there. They attempted surgery, but it was quickly clear that surgery could do nothing. He kept his calm, stayed positive, but everybody knows that one reliable fact in basketball: knees never get better, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. And last season, they went. He came back from injury early in the season, but he was far from his former self: his first step was gone, his cuts were pathetically slow, and he might have well been defending opponents sitting on a kitchen chair. He took more time off, came back, but with the same result. This just two year after he had inked a max, 5-year, $80+ contract. Suddenly, he wasn’t just another injured player, he was an albatross hanging on his team’s salary cap as well.

That albatross finally cut himself loose. Yesterday, word leaked out that Roy–at 27 years old, what should be the prime of his career–was medically retiring. He had met with doctors on Thursday that told him, in no uncertain terms, “You can’t keep doing this. You keep playing, and you might not be able to walk later.” And just like that, the Bradon Roy Era, ruled by the long-awaited heir apparent to Clyde the Glide, was over.

Roy was a marvel to watch, but for completely unmarvelous reasons. He was not a slasher nor much of a dunker. He did not grind out shot after shot, forcing difficult attempts for the dramatic effect. He wasn’t like Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade, who always have a look of fierce determination on their face, as if every shot says: “What I am doing is really difficult, so be impressed–I’m chucking up a 20-footer with a guy right in front of me!” Roy was more like Dirk Nowitzki: each shot looks meticulously prepared and planned and yet very routine. Whether it was a set-back three, a cross-over jumper, a runner in the lane, a lay-up going left, Roy had a smooth rhythm that made it look like he was playing in slow motion–but that everyone else was playing even slower. He unraveled defenses almost carelessly. You rarely leaped out off your couch watching him play–you just had to lean back, shake your head, and grin.

So to watch one of my favorite players of all time, one of the finest performers the Blazers have seen, have to hang it all up right when he should be hitting his best years–yeah, it was sad. Tragic. Sure, it’s just sports, but it’s tough to watch anyone have to step away from excellence because of life’s brute reality decides your 15 minutes are up. Falling short of our talents, never reaching the height of our potential–I think we’re all aware of how “What if?” can haunt us. But watching someone else go through that, someone we admire, can make those anxieties that much more poignant.

God speed, B-Roy.

PS There are a lot of highlights I could link here: I suggest this recap of how Roy completely took over Game 4 of last year’s playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks (eventual champions). By this point, he had not had a meaningful performance in months. Two games earlier, he had complained about not playing enough, and the public was starting to turn on him. He’s not quite as quick and lithe as he was years before, but it shows how Roy could turn a contest into a puppet-show with him holding the strings. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, and the Blazers completed one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history–coming back from being down 26–to tie the series 2-2, before losing the next two. This was Roy’s third to last game. The best curtain call you could imagine.

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Categories: Uncategorized
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