For many, many years residents of the state of Oregon had but 1 professional sports team; the Portland Trail Blazers. That is why basketball is so huge for us. Every sports-loving man, woman, and child in our small market corner of the states grew up with the Blazers. My first basketball memories are of watching Clyde ‘The Glide’ Drexler and Terry Porter with my dad. As I got older, my favorite player became Arvydas Sabonis, and I proudly wore his jersey as my first. I remember, all too well, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1999-2000 conference finals and going outside to shoot baskets in the driveway until I couldn’t feel my arms or my frustration anymore. The fans live and die with their team. We had our share of success, but as the luster faded, Portland fans could only watch their team erode before them. By 2003 the “Jail-Blazers” era was in full swing. We lost our respect as an organization as well as our playoff presence for years to come. So when Portland received Brandon Roy from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2006, in exchange for the draft rights to Randy Foye, Blazer fans welcomed him with open arms.
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you already know what happened next. Brandon was an instant success in Portland. He resuscitated a team that had been circling the drain for years, with his leadership, raw talent, and exemplary demeanor. In 2007, Roy was declared Rookie of the Year and was even selected to participate in NBA All Star Weekend. In 2008, Brandon Roy gave me a memory I will never forget; the game winning 3 against Houston, with 0.8 seconds left in overtime. You could have heard the McClain lounge erupt from anywhere on campus when a dorm full of college kids leapt, screaming, from the edge of their seats. In 2009, Brandon gave a desperate city their first playoff berth in 6 years. And in 2011, he gave until he had nothing left. Brandon Roy was amnestied by the Blazers organization when team doctors told him that he had no cartilage left in his knees. It was a tearful goodbye as Roy gave Portland one last gift; by using the amnesty clause, Roy’s salary was wiped from the books, giving Portland ample cap space to rebuild in his absence.
But as it turns out, basketball is not easy to let go. Unable to repress his love for the game, Brandon Roy signed with the Minnesota Timber Wolves on July 31st, 2012. By rule of the amnesty clause, he could not have rejoined the Blazers, but Portland fans were overjoyed regardless, as their hero was reunited with the sport he lives for. Unfortunately for Portland, this means they will have to pay Roy the $17 million they would have saved from him being “permanently” disabled; something Minnesota hoped to exploit after Portland failed to disclose Martell Webster’s back injury before trading him to the T-Wolves in 2010. So Roy’s return was politically bitter-sweet, but no one was celebrating when Roy left his 5th game as a Timber Wolf with familiar soreness in his left knee. This soreness led to Roy’s 7th knee surgery since high school. The crestfallen idol announced earlier this week that he had level 3 degenerative arthritis in his knees, adding that, “Level 4 is when you get a knee replacement”.
Now, Brandon Roy must weigh the option of medical retirement once again. If he opts to end his career a second time, his salary will be freshly wiped from Portland’s books, freeing the team he once embodied. However, he would be unable to continue doing what he loves. No matter what, he will have the adoration of his fans, but it’s more complicated than that. He must choose what he values more; the ability to play now, or the ability to walk later. Roy has stated that if it all ends here, he has no regrets. Neither do I. Brandon is so much more to me than a player. He is the heart of the Rose City; the defining star of a Portland generation. I will support him in any move he makes, as will many others. More than anything, I just want him to be happy. I’d be lying if I said my eyes were dry as I wrap this up, but the reality of my 28 year old hero’s dreams slipping through his fingers a second time seems to make this confounded lamp hurt my eyes. I can never give him what he gave me, but in the end, I hope he knows that we will carry on his legacy the way he carried us. Thanks for the memories, Brandon Roy.