Brandon Roy’s knees are tragically unable to to hold the immense talent that he is and therefore, at the ripe age of 27, he’s retiring from the game he excels at.
He was the 2005-06 Pac-10 Player of the Year, an All-American, the sixth pick in the NBA draft, an NBA All-Star, and one my all-time favorite basketball players. He was smooth and effortless, played with guts and to win.
I’ll always remember Roy’s New Year’s eve, 2005. I was on my family’s annual trip to Mexico, watching the Wildcats take on Roy’s Huskies in Seattle.
The marquee match-up was Hasaan Adams vs. Roy, two dynamic seniors leading teams that would likely finish 1-2 in this year’s Pac. Roy’s Huskies were 11-0 and sitting at #7 in the country. Adams’ Wildcats were 8-2 and had just fallen out of the rankings.
As one might expect, the Huskies jumped out to a big lead and headed to the lockers up 13. Below the border, we were worried: the Cats were getting blown out, the Huskies were clicking on all cylinders, and they’d served us blended Pina Coladas so our immediate bowel health was in a jeopardy.
But when the second half began and the Wildcats got to playing better basketball and we got to table slapping and screaming at a tube television broadcasting a pirated satellite feed 1865 miles from the game, things really got going.
You see, Hasaan Adams wasn’t a great basketball player. He was a great role player on a very good Salim Stoudamire/Channing Frey team in 2004-05 but did not have the skill set to be the lead.
But Adams would set career high with 32 points that night. Roy would set a career high with 35 points and like heavy weights, the two exchanged blows down the stretch – Roy forcing both overtimes well beyond the one minute mark, Adams scoring eight of his career high in bonus ball.
Brandon Roy elevated everyone’s game.
Graceful and powerful, level and easy, it was Roy that elevated Adams that night. A 96-95 overtime thriller can often be a spring board – regardless of what side of the score you fall on. Leadership recognizes opportunity. From that game on, the Wildcats would meekly go 12-10. From that game on, the Huskies would go 16-6, losing in the Sweet Sixteen to UConn in overtime, 96-92, and ending Roy’s college career.
Brandon Roy was a leader.
It was his excellent play, his class and charisma, his leadership that turned the Jailblazers into a respectable, feared, and winning NBA franchise once again. There are few players that can turn around an entire franchise, let alone a beleaguered and beaten one. BRoy did just that.
Down south we knew we’d just seen something special. The Wildcats had won and we were happy, content to set off into a great New Year’s celebration, but we were acutely aware of the fact that Brandon Roys don’t come around too often. We were fortunate to get to see him at his best.
Great anythings performing at their highest level is a beautiful thing to witness. It is to be cherished and celebrated. For that, Brandon Roy’s early retirement is a basketball tragedy. A loss for all basketball fans, from Huskies to Blazers, Wildcats to Lakers.
We’ll miss a phenomenal talent.
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