Shooting guard Brandon Roy played for the Portland Trail Blazers from his Rookie of the Year season in 2006 until his knees gave out in 2011, a 300-game span that encompassed three NBA All-Star appearances and one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Playoffs history against the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Since that point, his name and reputation have fallen into the murky middle-ground of recent memory...an underrated superstar from an era defined by injuries more than success.
Yesterday Jason Quick of The Athletic resurrected Roy’s name in a wide-spanning article [subscription required] covering his brilliance, his subsequent decline, and the inside story of the pain that goes with being separated from some of your life’s greatest accomplishments.
The article is far too extensive to summarize here. It contains first-hand details of Roy’s relationship with coaches, executives, and teammates, including this anecdote from his return from injury in 2011:
“I remember we were in Toronto, and it was almost awkward being around the team,” Roy said. “I’m not saying this in a bad way, I’m just trying to express how I was feeling at the time, but here I was, the highest-paid guy on the team, I was just an All-Star and All-NBA guy and literally the only person who talked to me was (trainer) Jay Jensen.”
The team next went to Detroit, and Roy studied the locker room chemistry. Aldridge, a noted introvert, kept to himself. Andre Miller, the point guard, kept to himself. Wesley Matthews, who inherited Roy’s starting role, was supremely focused, consumed with trying to prove he belonged as an undrafted player.
“I was just hanging out with the trainers working out, thinking, ‘Man, I don’t really feel a part of this deal,’” Roy said. “Not that anybody was trying to do it, it just that you get bonds with guys when you have to go out there in games and count on them, rely on them, trust them, and I just wasn’t in on that bond.
“It just seemed like … have you ever been somewhere and it seems like, dang, time has passed me? It was like that for me. It just felt different.”
The franchise itself becomes a central character in Quick’s narrative, asked overt or implied questions: “Have you forgotten?” and, “Where’s the jersey retirement?” Roy explains his side of the story:
Roy said Blazers executive Neil Olshey has contacted him several times throughout the years and extended an open invitation to return, be it tickets, a role within the organization, whatever he needed.
“And I was like, ‘Hmmm … nah, not right now,’” Roy said. “After a while, he stopped asking.”
For the first few years after that March 2012 visit, much of Roy’s reluctance to return was because he was having a hard time coming to grips with his place in basketball. And as the years went on, the organization had so much turnover he no longer felt a connection. His former teammates had moved on. Owner Paul Allen had passed away. Coach Nate McMillan had been fired. So had trainer Jay Jensen.
Also, Roy at his core is a private person, and he has a tendency to keep to himself and stay out of the public eye. So as the months turned to years, and the years to several years...
The piece has sent similar echoes through Blazers fans. A small number wonder why Roy was significant. A much larger group has reacted with indignation to that question, spinning out memories of Roy’s glory, vocalizing a desire for his return to the spotlight.
The article is one of Quick’s best. You should find a way to get your hands on it in full. In the meantime, would you support (or demand) the retirement of Jersey Number 7 to the Moda Center rafters?