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Perseverance: Meyers Leonard Shows His Mettle

Jason Quick of the Athletic explains how Game 3 meant more to three men, including the Blazers’ big man.

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Golden State Warriors v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Three Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

In a revealing piece for the Athletic, Jason Quick explores three interconnected storylines, examining their personal intersections: Meyers Leonard’s struggles and perseverance, the death of Quick’s friend and Blazer fan Jake Panowicz, and sitting alongside Keanon Lowe, who stopped a school shooting at Parkrose High School on Friday afternoon. In lieu of the usual post-game wrap-up, Quick delves into his own struggle with depression, noting that Leonard’s friendship helped him at one of his darkest moments during the winter months. In Quick’s words, it was as simple as Leonard asking him how he was doing, which turned into long conversations about Leonard’s own journey.

During the course of our interviews, one quote always stuck out. It was from Jan. 11, before the Charlotte game, and Leonard was talking about his need to be accepted, his desire to be loved, and whether Portland would ever be the place he could find that. He said he didn’t want to chase it elsewhere.

“I have a wound here to heal,” he said.

On Saturday, that wound began to scab over. Leonard set a career-playoff high with 16 points, including 13 during a rowdy first half. And when he left the game in the second quarter to a thunderous roar, he caught himself getting emotional for a second.

“But just for a second; I was in the Western Conference Finals and needed to focus,” Leonard said. “But when I left the game and heard that, I felt it. And it was special.”

As for Keanon Lowe, Quick unveils how Lowe managed to act so quickly, saving untold lives in the process.

When Lowe was a receiver at the University of Oregon from 2010-14, he remembers the offense having daily meetings with coordinator Scott Frost (who is now the head coach at Nebraska). In these meetings, Lowe said Frost talked football, but he also talked about life. He recalls one meeting when Frost talked about handling a crisis situation.

“Coach Frost told us that if you haven’t already made up your mind what you would do in an emergency situation, then you are going to be too slow and you are not going to help the situation,” Lowe said. “It’s going to happen too fast.”

Lowe wrestled the student, who came into a classroom with a shotgun, to the ground. Lowe coaches football and track and field at Parkrose, where he became the school’s security guard in January. Where others would have frozen, Lowe acted.

Revisiting the struggles of Meyers Leonard, Quick speaks with Leonard’s teammates, including Zach Collins and Maurice Harkless, about the role the big man plays on the team. Collins emphasizes that Leonard has been nothing but helpful for him, even as they are ostensibly in competition for minutes. Leonard acknowledges that despite trying times, he has had to persevere.

“I know that I can’t win everybody over. That’s just a fact. But I worked my tail off preparing for moments like this. I really care about this team, this organization, this city … and being given this opportunity was, to be frank, special for me. I love the Navy Seals quote: ‘You don’t rise to the occasion, you fall back on training.’ And this was a reflection of all the work I’ve done.”

Quick concludes with poignant memories of his friend, Jake Panowicz, who recently lost his battle with cancer. A passionate Blazers fan, he believed in the team until the end, recounts Quick.

You can read the entire piece here. Subscription required.