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News - Opinion - May 24, 2014

What Could Have Been: Brandon Roy

 

At one point in his career, Brandon Roy was considered one of the league’s brightest up-and-coming stars for the Portland Trail Blazers. Two short years into his career, Roy was already playing an all-star brand of basketball, but with a few more seasons of growth and hard work, Roy would reach an elite level of play; a level so prestigious, he’d be considered a top three shooting guard along with Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. “B-Roy” had the potential to become an MVP, a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest players of the 2000’s/2010’s. Sadly, frequent knee injuries which almost always required surgery, plagued Roy’s career which made him walk away from the game at the age of 28.

Roy, a stud out of the University of Washington, came into the league in 2006 as the 6th overall pick in the NBA Draft and made an immediate impact for the Portland Trail Blazers, a franchise that had nothing to cheer about the past couple of seasons. Led by him, the Blazers won eleven more games than they did the year before. Roy went on to win the 2006-07 Rookie of the Year award, averaging 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting 45% from the field for the Trail Blazers who finished that season with a subpar record of 32-50. The Blazers were so high on Roy, they felt absolutely no regrets passing up on the potential superstar, Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA Draft to draft big-man Greg Oden. In the first two seasons of his career, the Trail Blazers knew they had something special in Roy. His clutch shots and dynamic play earned him respect from the Portland fans and made a name for himself in the media. Brandon Roy was becoming a star in the NBA.

During the 2008-09 season, “B-Roy’s” career really took off. Up to this point, he had made 24 shots that either tied or won the game with 35 seconds or less on the shot clock for Portland; an insane ability to score the ball when his team needed it most. That year, Roy led the Blazers to a 54-28 record and their first playoff appearance since 2002-2003. The year before, Portland concluded a .500 record at the end of the year, 41-41. Thirteen more wins in 2008-09 season showed the improvements in Roy’s leadership and growing basketball ability. This was easily the best year of his career, putting up a career-best 22.6 points and 4.7 assists, along with 5.1 assists and 1.1 assists per game despite getting eliminated in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Brandon Roy was named to his first All-Star team and was chosen for the All-NBA 2nd Team. Roy also finished 9th in MVP voting that year. Roy’s season made a statement that he was the real deal and undoubtedly was no bust.

Other than his hardnose play on the court, another reason why Brandon Roy was a fan favorite across the NBA was that of his quiet, but deadly demeanor and his humbleness. On December 18th, 2008, Roy scored a career-high 52 points on 14/17 shooting from the field and committed zero turnovers in the process. Having the ball in your hands so much to score 52 points and not turning the ball over once is unheard of. In crunch time of this Trail Blazers’ victory over Phoenix, Roy got M-V-P chants from the hometown crowd while knocking down two crucial free-throws which led them to the win. Roy claimed after the career night, “my number one goal is to win. Not to be the MVP. Not to be the All-Star. To win.” This brought a smile to Blazer’s fans faces because their superstar wasn’t all about individual success, but success for the team.

Late in the 2009-10 season, with just three games left in the regular season, the beginning of the end began. Almost completing their Playoff push, Roy played just 11 minutes in the third-to-last game before leaving the contest with a sore right knee. Prior to the Playoffs, devastating news struck the Portland Trail Blazers. Roy underwent an MRI on his right knee revealing a torn meniscus that required surgery as soon as possible. The injury was bearable, as Roy decided to hold off on the surgery until the off-season, but would still need to miss a
couple games and maybe the entire playoffs. Roy underwent surgery on April 16 and was expected to miss at least the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, but returned for Game 4 after eight days of recovery. The weakened Trail Blazers fell to Phoenix, 2-4 in the first round of the Playoffs. Ten months later during the 2010-11 season, Roy went through more harm. In January of 2011, Roy would need arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees after a fresh start to the season. Not one knee, both knees. Though doctors felt his knee fully healed from the surgery in April, sadly, his knees were in a worse state than they were before. Brandon Roy would miss the next 30 games for Portland. Back-to-back injuries in a year span threw-off his shot, as well as his explosiveness greatly. Roy had to accept the new role of coming off the bench and playing just about 10-15 minutes for the team. This was his last productive year as a professional basketball player.

Just before NBA training camp opened following the conclusion of the 2011 NBA lockout, Roy announced that his knees had degenerated so much—he lacked cartilage between the bones of both knees—that he was retiring from basketball. In June 2012, Roy announced that he was planning to make a comeback to the NBA. He said he had recovered enough to play after having the platelet-rich plasma procedure that Kobe Bryant has also had to keep
knees healthy. In the summer of 2012, Roy signed a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves, hoping to be the player he used to be after a year or two of mental and physical preparation. Yet again, another devastating knee injury struck the all-star guard just five games into his returning season. He averaged 5.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game in 24.4 minutes during the 2012-13 season; he was waived later in the season.

Just two dozen months before his second major surgery, Brandon Roy was the man in Portland; an all-star, their player of the future. How could a professional basketball player’s career crumble so quickly? What if he didn’t go through these injuries? Was an MVP in his future? A Championship?

In a perfect world, Brandon Roy would have continued his success in the NBA and would have molded into one of the league’s best two-guards. If Roy remained with Portland, he, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard (if they still would have drafted him) would be considered one of the greatest trios in the league.

It’s a shame we only got to see Brandon Roy before he was in his prime; before he lived up to his full potential. Even more of a shame is knowing a few tears in a human being’s knees could terminate a magnificent, up-and-coming career. Roy’s fans only have the imagination of what he could have become, and we all can agree, it would have been something special.

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