What a day. I don't think I've had this many emotion whirling around in years. Waking up this morning, I was looking forward to following the stories out of training camp, hearing how the players were doing, and especially, hearing how Brandon looked in practice. I got the shock of my life when I looked at my Twitter feed and saw the reports. B Roy retiring? He's younger than I am, in great shape, knees were shaky, but still, could dazzle us and make us believe. It was just not possible.
I am one of those obsessed Blazer fans, so the news today had my crying on and off all day. I'm not sure it that makes sense to many, but to me, it felt like I just lost a family member, a close friend. I don't have many happy memories from my childhood; actually, I have blocked out most of it due to the unpleasantness of it (which is putting it VERY mildly), but the good times I do remember involve the Trailblazers, especially those golden years of the late 80s/early 90s. My late mother was such a fan, and some of the times I remember actually being happy were watching Clyde, Terry, Jerome, Buck, Duck, and the rest of that motley bunch hoop their hearts out. We had hope then, that we could play with the best and someday be the best, be the team that no one wanted to play, that we would be NBA Champions once again.
Then the late 90s hit. We went from being a class act to being a sideshow. What was happening off the court soon overshadowed what was happening on the court. You could see the players slacking off, not caring if we won, but players just wanting to get their checks. You saw players being forced into roles they should have never been put in. Extremely dubious characters joining the team, no one I would want my children to follow or admire. If you were a fan, you didn't proclaim it as you did before - you were ashamed to admit it. Going into the early and mid 2000s, I got the feeling that it was never going to get better, that we would never get back to having hope to be the best again.
Then B Roy came.
He didn't have the fan fare of Oden, but the quiet confidence we have all come to know and love. You could see, from day one, he wanted to be the best, but on the best team, not carrying the team all by himself, but working as a team to win games. He wanted and demanded respect and class from others, and expected of himself. When I heard he had it out with Randolph in the locker room after the game, during his rookie year, I knew then, we had our hope back. Brandon had us believing again, that good things will happen, we will become the best, we will be a class act again, and we will have that second championship banner in the rafters.
More than the play, Brandon is a terrific human being. He does not sacrifice himself, his beliefs, his standards, to be a success in the NBA. He did it his way, quietly but confidently, talking this team on his back when it was needed, stepping back and letting others take the lead when they needed to. He always did what was asked of him, and most of the time, did more than what was asked. He never hid what he was thinking or feeling, but let all of us in, welcoming us as we welcomed him to Portland. As I saw earlier today, some one said that one of the greatest things Brandon did was get the state of Oregon to love a Husky. He made sure his family came first, and stayed true to his upbrining, not letting stardom overtake him. For he was a star, the brightest the organization had seen since Clyde the Glyde and Big Red. Some of the best interviews or pictures I saw of Brandon had his children with him, especially little Brandon Jr., giggling or mugging for the camera, while Dad just looked proudly in the background. In a time when we kept hearing about players off court antics, Brandon was the squeaky clean, All American, class act. He was The Natural.
Brandon makes me believe in the good of the organization again. He brought back that hope for me, the happy memories of what the Blazers once were. I felt proud to be a Blazers fan. I was confident that he would overcome this hurdle, just as he had in the past. We would see him on the floor again, maybe not cutting as fast, but still giving us that spark, that energy, when we needed him to. I just knew he would come back and do great things, and to even think of using the amnesty on him was horrible. We owed him the chance to show us what he could still do for us, what he wanted to do. He brought this team from the brink of utter collapse, and made it Rip City again. When the injuries started hitting, you felt horrible, and even if you thought he was rushing back too fast, too soon in his recovery, you knew that he was going to give it his all, and carry us once again, even though we knew it was time we helped him with that load. We kept hoping for one more miracle, one more Game 4 performance.
Brandon is going out on his own terms, not letting anyone dictate how and when it will end. He is going out while he still has a chance to be with the family he so cherishes, to be able to still play with his beloved children while his knees let him. That means more to him that tearing them up even more for a championship. His children are still relatively young, and he has more years to keep up with them then he would a playing career. Devastating news to us, yes, but ultimately the right decision to make. If you have to choose between your family and your job, family will always win. As it should. Brandon is protecting the future of his family, so his children with have many more happy memories of time with their father, a mobile father. You cannot blame him for that.
I think of all that Brandon has done for us, and all I can say is, through my tears, Thank You. Thank you for helping this fan believe again. Thank you for giving me hope. Thank you for taking me back to the happy times I did have before. Thank you for everything. And I don't think it is too much to add, to us, now you are not only The Natural. You have become Mr. Rip City as well. And soon, we will see you again, as we hang your number in the rafters with all the other greats. Good luck in the next chapter in your life, and know that you will always be a Trailblazer to us.