I’ve been attending Blazer games with my family since I was 9 years old. I still have my opening night ticket from the very first game at the Rose Garden. It was the first Blazer game I attended. I’m 25 now and a bigger fan than ever, but there was a time that my fandom faltered.
Around the time just after I graduated high school the team had gotten really bad. It was at the tail end of the jail blazer era, the team was losing, and they weren’t fun to watch. There was a season somewhere around 2004 to 2006 that I didn’t even attend 1 game. It just wasn’t fun anymore.
Then the 2006 draft came around. I was driving home from work during draft night that year. I can tell you the exact place I was in my commute when I heard on the radio that the Blazers had drafted Brandon Roy (through the trade with Minnesota). I am still reminded of that moment when I reach that point in my commute every day and cross the Marquam Bridge on I-5.
My brother attended the University of Washington. He was in college at the same time as Brandon and an avid member of the Dawg Pack (winning Husky fan of the year Brandon’s senior year at UW). So I knew who Brandon Roy was and I remember texting my brother when I found out the Blazers were getting Roy. He was ecstatic. I would soon find out just why he was so excited. I had seen Roy play a few times for UW, but didn’t quite understand how special he was until he came to Portland.
At the start of the 06-07 season I started attending games regularly again. Brandon was mesmerizing to watch. I wore my Rookie Of the Year (ROY) shirt proudly all season and knew that something special was happening with Roy in a Blazer uniform. I read the stories of Brandon standing up to Zach Randolph, proving his leadership even as a rookie. The culture of the team changed the day that Brandon Roy was drafted by the Blazers. Even though we didn’t have a winning season that year, games were fun again.
The way our season tickets were structured, I was only able to attend half of the home games. I specifically remember sitting in my living room in 2008 and watching Brandon hit the game winning shot in that infamous Houston game. I can pinpoint that as the moment that I decided I needed full season tickets and I would do what I could to not miss another game in the Rose Garden. I wanted to be there to see Brandon Roy’s magic in person.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to tour the Blazers locker room at a season ticket holder event. I got to see the “Stay Humble” note in his locker that everyone had heard so much about. There was something really special about seeing this, his constant reminder. I still have a picture of it. Brandon provided me with so many memories in his much too short 5-year career. Buzzer beaters, step back shots, ankle-breaking dribbles, posterizing Cheikh Samb. He reminded me what I loved about the Blazers.
It’s been heartbreaking to see his body fail him at such a young age. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen to guys like Brandon Roy. Someone with so much promise, so much talent, and so much more to give.
During game 3 of the playoffs last year, I had brought my “NBA: Where LaMazing Happens” sign to the game in hopes of getting LaMarcus to sign it. I was standing at the tunnel before the game and was the fan closest to the court. As I was waiting for LaMarcus, Brandon came through. I was in awe. Speechlees. I had met several Blazers before but I had never had the opportunity to talk to Brandon. I didn’t know what to say. With all of the negative attention Brandon was getting at that time, I just wanted to offer my support and let him know the fans were still behind him. I said to him: “Brandon, we all still love you.” He stopped signing whatever it was I was holding, looked up at me and told me thank you and that it meant a lot to him. It was so sincere. Brandon was sincere in everything he did on and off the court. When I read Jason Quick’s story on Brandon from last night this part caused the tears brimming in my eyes to spill out:
Roy admits that he has not yet come to grips with his departure from the game. And he doesn't know how he can ever replace that special relationship he had with the Portland fans.
So he can not yet come back, because he has not yet allowed himself to go.
"You can walk away from someone who doesn't love you. And you can walk away from someone you don't love. But when the love is mutual," Roy said. "The hardest thing is to walk away."
Brandon Roy has meant a lot to Portland, it’s obvious the feeling is mutual.
I was fortunate enough to be in the Rose Garden during game 4 of the playoffs last year. I have never felt energy like there was in the Rose Garden during that 4th quarter. After all that Brandon had been through, to see him succeed in such an amazing way and once again resurrect the Blazers was something I will never forget. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried at the end of that game and not even because we won. I cried because I believed in Brandon, and I was so happy to see the doubts of the weeks before that disappear. I was just so happy for him.
Brandon’s choice of medical retirement has left us with a lot of what ifs. But the only what if I keep thinking about is: What if Brandon had never played a game in a Blazer uniform? Nicolas Batum said on twitter last week: “I’m proud of one thing; I can say ‘I played with Brandon Roy!’“ Though I never stepped on the court with Brandon, I can still say “I was there.” Thanks to Brandon, I have so many “I was there for…” and “do you remember….” moments that I will never forget. I watched Game 4 vs. Dallas again on Wednesday night and the tears came again, as I suppose they always will. It’s only fitting that a performance like that was Brandon Roy’s last game in the Rose Garden. Brandon Roy brought Rip City back from the darkness and for that I will be forever grateful.
Picture from Bruce Ely of the Oregonian