Every season, 29 NBA teams go without parades. Some make it closer to the Larry O’Brien and the ticker tape than others, but for most of the league the season’s high points boil down to checkpoints rather than finish lines. Memorable moments define the sizable field of players, coaches, and teams that come up short; especially for those who make the post-season and earn remembrance on the national stage. Jason Concepcion of The Ringer compiled a shortlist of 2017 NBA Playoff martyrs thus far that went out in a blaze of glory, making their final checkpoint count.
Now, neither the Trail Blazers nor any individuals under that sopping Portland umbrella made the 2017 list, as the Golden State Warriors effectively snuffed out their post-season fire, but Concepcion flips the pages of history to a familiar chapter in looking at some all-time moments of playoff martyrdom. Trail Blazers fans may recall the swan song of Brandon Roy.
Moment of Martyrdom: Game 4, 2011 first round vs. the Mavericks
What he died for: Hoop dreams
Brandon Roy was only 26 in 2011. He was a dynamic and skilled guard, but he was cursed with knees that creaked like haunted houses. He had arthroscopic surgery on those ghostly joints in 2010–11 and played only 47 games. His career looked to be over before it could get started. He scored only two points off the bench, total, in the first two games of Portland’s first-round series against Dallas, the eventual champions. In Game 3, he his stroke returned — 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field.
In Game 4, with the Blazers trailing by 21 with seconds left in the third quarter, Roy exploded. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter on a series of post-ups, juking drives, and bent-leg fallaways. For one quarter, we glimpsed the player he might have been.
Roy played five seasons in Portland until a degenerative knee condition forced him to retire before his prime. He is still fondly remembered as the face of the team that pulled Portland out of the “Jail Blazers” era and gave the franchise hope for the future. An attempt to revive his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves proved fruitless in 2013, and his legacy remains in the Rose City, adorned with that parting playoff performance and the spark of what we knew he could do.
Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson round out Concepcion’s historical moments of martyrdom, but to read more about what they “died for,” you’ll have to visit The Ringer.