Brandon Roy, the emotional leader of the Portland Trail Blazers, had one of the finest finishes to a playoff basketball game in the history of the NBA on Saturday afternoon. Nobody deserves it more.
Much has been made about Portland’s former shining star who, because of injury, has been relegated to spot duty. Many NBA players, especially those still in their primes, would not have accepted a lesser role for the good of the team like Roy did.
Last season in Houston, it became clear that Tracy McGrady was not interested in being anything less than the team’s No. 1 option as he had been for years.
Allen Iverson wrote his own exit from the NBA by refusing to acknowledge his declining skill set and adjusting his role accordingly.
Basketball, as a sport, is the perfect hybrid of individuality and team. Even the greatest players in the world cannot win without a solid supporting cast ( see Kobe Bryant from 2003-2006).
Conversely, sometimes just stacking a team with incredible talent with no regards to chemistry or roles, ends poorly such as the 1996 and 2000 USA Olympic “Dream Teams.” The 2011 Miami Heat still to be decided on
With Roy sidelined this season, Portland turned to LaMarcus Aldridge who blossomed into one of the 10 best big men in the league. Taking Roy’s spot in the lineup was young Wesley Mathews, whose energy and athleticism matched that of the rest of Portland’s wing players (Nicolaus Batum, Gerald Wallace and Rudy Fernandez).
This lineup allowed Portland to win in the regular season and end up as the sixth overall seed in the Western Conference. As we all know, however, the playoffs are a completely different animal.
A trendy pick to start the series, the Blazers were smacked in the mouth in the first two games in Dallas by the bigger, more experienced Mavericks.
Once back in Portland though, things changed.
The Blazers are the only show in town in Portland, and as a result, have an incredibly dedicated and informed fanbase. Blazer fans treat their team with love, enthusiasm and an almost college-like dedication. Portland fans have still yet to give up on Greg Oden, instead they feel bad for the kid and wish him well for next year.
If Oden had been drafted by the Knicks, he would have been eviscerated.
Roy was able to feed off of Blazers' fans energy in Game 3. The level of intensity in the Rose Garden Arena was ratcheted up to a new level, as Roy did more and more positive things. All this set the stage for Saturday’s memorable performance.
As the Blazers crept back into the game late in the fourth, the crowd was waiting to explode. Once it became clear that Roy was the man who was going to make the difference, the Rose Garden became frenzied. They didn’t just want this for themselves or the team, they wanted this for the 26-year-old Roy.
They knew how hard he’d struggled with his injuries and his own inability to contribute for large parts of the season. Hell, they’d seen him on the verge of tears after Game 2 of this series where his lack of minutes and contributions seemed to devastate him emotionally.
They knew how much this comeback would mean to him.
Then, as the basketball gods tend to do, miracles started happening. Everything Roy put up was going in, including an incredible four-point play late in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 82.
At that moment, Dallas was done and they knew it. The clock just hadn’t run out yet.
It was a unique feeling watching Brandon Roy win this game and even the series for the Blazers. It wasn't like watching Reggie Miller, Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant do the same thing as we have a thousand times.
It was different. It was like watching a player get redemption one basket at a time.
Roy couldn’t be a nicer guy or embody any more qualities that you would want in an NBA star. If I had a kid playing basketball, I would tell him to play like Roy.
There’s a phrase that I made up in high school to explain those seemingly unexplainable moments that happen in basketball games. It goes, “the game rewards you for playing it beautifully.”
Applying the mantra of that phrase is how you explain why three-pointers that come off beautiful drive and kicks or perfect swing passes seem to go in 30% more of the time.
It explains why layups and dunks that come off killer crossovers or hesitations go in far more than the ones attempted head on. There’s something unexplainable about the game of basketball that ALLOWS greatness to transpire.
You could see it unfold on Saturday, as Portland cut the lead basket-by-basket. When Roy hit the final jumper to take the lead. there wasn’t a person watching that thought he would miss.
The game was rewarding Roy for playing it beautifully.
Allowing himself to be more of a closer instead of demanding to be the star, put Roy and the Blazers in this position.
Most of all, it’s shown that the 26 year old is far from done.
Even if he can’t do it for 48 minutes like he used to, the Blazers have more than enough weapons to get him to the finish. As good as LaMarcus Aldridge has been, with the game on the line, this is still Roy’s team.
The NBA Playoffs are unique, in that traditionally, they allow the best players in the world to compete against each other and make incredible memories. On Saturday afternoon in the Rose Garden, Roy gave us another one.
As a fan of the game of basketball, I thank him for it.
Keep playing the game beautifully Brandon…you deserve it.
This article can be seen on The Penalty Flag Blog
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