When I was a little kid I didn’t believe in heroes. The president was an adulterer, football stars became murderers, politicians are liars, and for my hometown Trail Blazers the players were criminals (at least that’s what you think of anyone who goes to jail when you’re a kid), I was a rather cynical kid to say the least. However I was still a basketball fan and even though I didn’t quite like Zach Randolph, or Ruben Patterson, or Damon Stoudamire they still played for the Blazers, and I cheered for them like nothing else, but it was as if they would always let you down.
That began to change in the spring of 2006 when the Blazers traded Foye for Roy during the NBA draft. Needless to say as a Huskies fan I was excited to see Brandon who had stayed four years and even brought us to the sweet 16, get to stay in the Northwest. I remember talking about it with my friends the next day and we knew that Roy was a good guy who would be great for the team. Well the move turned out better than expected and the entire city as well as myself couldn’t have been prouder when Roy went on to win Rookie of the Year.
Things seemed like they couldn’t be better and yet they did, I remember screaming in hysteria when the Blazers got the first pick in the NBA Draft lottery with Brandon there representing the team. That summer for the first time, everyone was talking about The Blazers. Talking about how Brandon was going to lead a big three to multiple titles and that we would have a dominant team for the next decade. The best part was I knew it wasn’t just a wild fantasy and the guys we had weren’t criminals, they were guys you could respect and look up to. That season for the first time in my memory we were winners and a really tough team to boot. I remember going to games and watching as Nate Mcmillan’s grinding defense kept us in the game and then yelling B-ROY!!!! along with everyone else as Brandon and the Portland Trailblazers would pull off another amazing come from behind fourth quarter finish. I remember the excitement that year watching the NBA all-star game for the first time and seeing Brandon holding his own against Lebron and playing alongside Kobe.
Then Brandon started to mean more to me. I remember my first boss telling me that his brother worked with Brandon in a machine shop when Brandon was in high school. How Brandon had the exact same job of sweeping floors as I did. It was cool thinking that my favorite player, on my favorite team, one who was making millions, still had to sweep wood, metal, and dust from floors just like I had to do at one point. Of course Brandon would continue doing extraordinary things, I remember watching on TV when Brandon dropped 52 against the Suns, thinking how awesome it was to have one of the best players in the NBA playing for your team. He wasn’t just one of the best though, he was THE BEST, no one else played like Brandon, hard on defense, pragmatic on offense, passing the ball and only taking over when it was absolutely necessary. He was one of our very own, born and raised in the Northwest, still living here and giving back to his community, I wouldn’t have traded Brandon for anybody.
That season I remember really feeling the pain of a playoff loss for the first time. It was tough watching the Blazers go down against the Rockets and take a first round exit. It was tough thinking about how I would have to wait until next year for Roy, Aldridge, and Oden to take us to that championship every sports fan dreams of. Yet I was still hopeful because I knew those guys would never let me down. That hope even sustained me through my first year of college down in Los Angeles, where the litany of Lakers fans would always be quick to point out their past success whenever the conversation turned to basketball. I didn’t really care though, I was proud of the team I had, they were good guys who played tough every game, guys who had substance not style. That spring I remember having the hopes for a playoff run crushed when Brandon Roy went down with an injury, another year of disappointment was tough to stomach. Yet Brandon wouldn’t let my hopes die, in what seemed like the beginning of a sports movie Brandon came back less than 10 days later to lead Portland to a win over Phoenix and close to a first round upset. It was something I was proud of watching Brandon was doing more than anyone could ask of their favorite player.
In the Fall of my sophomore year of college, I had some set backs in my personal life. I had a knee injury that pushed me to quit running cross-country for the team at my university. It was depressing feeling as if I had let my teammates down, being unable to do something that I had loved doing for years, waking up in pain and constantly thinking things like you may never be able to run fast or compete again. Then Brandon started having more knee problems too, yet despite what appeared as an obvious struggle he kept playing, taking a reduced role and doing his best to help the Blazers any way he could. Brandon took it gracefully, remained optimistic hopeful, showing strength I only wish I had.
That spring the Blazers were making another playoff run, however this time they weren’t really on my mind. It had been a tough semester for me dealing with the breakup of my college sweetheart, not being able to run track, and struggling in my classes. I was alone in my dorm room studying for my finals coming up in a few days, I had the TV on since the Blazers were playing game four with the Mavericks, but my heart wasn’t in it. The Blazers were down big in the third quarter, and I thought about turning it off, instead I had the terrible thought “no just let this add to your misery” and kept the TV on. Then the fourth quarter started and Brandon was in, I glanced up to see Brandon score a few buckets, it looked like the Brandon of old. Then the points kept coming and Dallas’ lead dwindled, I put the books down, I wanted to see if something would happen. To my amazement the Blazers started coming back and Brandon was leading the charge, when Dallas’ lead was down to 6, I was on my feet. It felt like the one of the biggest moments of my life, a four point play then another shot by Roy and all of a sudden the Blazers were ahead, I was jumping up and down in amazement, then I went running through the dorm halls (which turned out to be a big no no during finals week especially since my RA was a mavericks fan) It was the happiest day I had had all semester and I will never forget it, the Blazers were once again back in the playoff hunt.
Today I heard the news that Brandon Roy will be retiring for because of his knees, I was sitting in my apartment and I would be lying if I told you men don’t cry. I didn’t want to believe the knees had finally put an end to a special career. I really wish the story was different that instead Brandon could stick around for a few more years and help the Blazers win that title that has so eluded us. However, I will never forget what he has meant to me. Watching him in that game 4 drive to the hoop, giving everything he truly had to his team and his city was a special moment. Brandon always managed to bring the hope back and he never gave up, no one could ask anything more. Heroes are people you can look up to; those who you know will never let you down. They give you something to hope for and show you that when you do good and you persevere, good things really will happen, it’s a tough thing to believe in and I really never thought heroes existed, but I was wrong and I am glad I am wrong, Brandon Roy thank you for being my hero.