Dear BRoy, I Underestimated You
“Stuff your SORRYs in a sack, mista’!” –George Costanza
by Sandy Dover / @SandmanSeven
First off, let me say that I’ve said a lot about you in the past, and I’ve been very critical, not only of you, but about you, but I’ve done it largely because I care. I care about your success, in great part because you’re so good.
To go back in time, we graduated high school in the same class year of 2002, so I remember when you declared for the NBA Draft out of high school to put your name out there; I remember that you were largely ignored, and then you enrolled at the University of Washington; I remember you growing in your game and scouts, fans, and observers waiting on you with critical eyes to see if you would blossom into a real player and prospect on the next level, after four years as a Husky.
Let it also be said that I didn’t think a whole bunch of you when you were drafted by Minnesota? Boston? I can’t remember, I just know that you were traded to Portland for Randy Foye, and I felt that Randy was the better player. It wasn’t a personal thing, but we know that you had some knee problems early, and the NBA has a history of taking 6-6 swingmen high in the first round of the Draft and there being a precipitous fall thereafter if the climate for success isn’t just right for you guys (blame it on MJ, maybe).
I cheered you silently when you persevered and became the 2007 NBA Rookie of the Year. I wanted to get your Nike Trainer 1s, your player exclusive versions with “B. ROY” written on the heel counter in a graffiti style (I still want those). You even validated my love for Muscle Milk. I was amazed and pleasantly surprised when you showed people that you could play point guard and small forward with equal ability and that you are distinctly a point guard that can play the wing — not some stupid compound-worded, oversimplified multi-tool player who’s merely called a “point forward.”
Up until your double knee surgery this season, I barked for years about how I detested that Nate McMillan and the rest of the Portland brass wouldn’t just make you the lead guard from the jump. And I didn’t even care one iota when you were in that rap video a year or so ago, and you felt the need to apologize for some nebulous reason — well, the reason wasn’t very nebulous; you were nervous about the fact that people might view you as perpetuating the stereotype of the young, African American, Portland Trail Blazers of yesteryear; you know, the ones who were kite-high and reckless and so filthy rich, they didn’t care about their own decency. I didn’t forgive you, because you didn’t have to be forgiven — you didn’t do anything wrong.
However…I didn’t like how you passive-aggressively whined in post-game interviews about not having your paws on the ball at all times. And even though I differed with the coach about your positional role too, I didn’t like how you also were a poor sport about having to play off the ball, even though you may have failed to realize that sometimes playing off the ball helped your team win games in ideal situations and that you may be just as good off the ball as you are on the ball. I didn’t like that about your attitude.
I didn’t care for the fact that you seemingly were picking up a pretentious attitude about that, and I also didn’t like your dismissive air when Andre Miller got picked up to play next to you. Miller’s resume as a chief point guard is way longer than your entire career, and you didn’t see the brilliance in being able to pick your spots when substitutions were going to be your friend when he was out of the game. Maybe you were intimidated by Andre, because he doesn’t kiss @$$? That’s possible, but Steve Blake wasn’t exactly known for leading teams to greener pastures, so maybe you just weren’t secure in your role; whatever it was, though, I didn’t like it, and it wasn’t a good look, sir.
Then, I thoroughly detested how you insisted on being the main man running the point last year, even though you were struggling here and there with your leg injuries and the team needed Andre to stay put so that they could continue to make a way into the Playoffs. Maybe you got a big head somewhere and I understand that — people seem to really like you and the fact that you were an elite player rationalizes those thoughts, but you failed to see at the time that your pretension caused tension in the previous two years. And so I wasn’t very happy.
(I may have been the first one to nationally say that you probably needed to be traded when you first started having more serious leg trouble in 2010. Sorry. I felt and still feel like it would’ve been the smart thing to do, as a basketball decision.)
Now? I honestly didn’t think you’d recover, mentally, in context of your circumstances. I strongly dislike that you will probably never be the same as you were in your first three-and-a-half seasons in the League, and that your knees have kept you from reaching your full potential on the hardwood, but I love that you’ve resolved these issues with great maturity. Somewhere in the rehab process, you dug deep and realized that you were different and that the team would no longer need you in the capacity in which you once were known. At 26 years old, you had to make a startling life decision about your career and how you would approach your livelihood differently because of your circumstances — for that, I commend you, because with us being the relative same age (I’m some months older than you), I also have had to make that type of decision as well (I have to make that decision daily, it seems).
You’ve humbled yourself and you’ve been humbled. A young man, a millionaire, an NBA All-Star, with a young family, in a city filled with people whose hopes were seemingly dashed by your fall(s)…the pressure to succeed at levels that may be unrealistically high was certainly alive in Portland. I hurt for you. Having said that, you’ve come back, man. Not in the way that people classically think when they talk about star athletes who are on the mend. You’ve done something that Tracy McGrady didn’t have to do at your age, and Grant Hill didn’t have to do it that early, either. And over 40 years ago, Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers had to retire with the sorts of issues that you have today, so I commend you and praise you for your recovery as a functional, contributing basketball player. It’s not messianic, but it feels good to know you’re back.
I’m sorry that I was hard on you, but as a fan (and not a fickle member of the media), I wanted to see you excel in a fashion that I felt you were capable of. Those expectations weren’t always fair, but they felt right in my mind. I don’t expect to doubt you again, because you’ve proven yourself to be resilient.
I underestimated you, Brandon Roy. I doubted you. And if it means anything at all to you, I’m sorry.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist, and fitness enthusiast whose work has been featured and published by US News, Yahoo!, Robert Atwan’s “America Now,“ and now in Buckets and Playmaker magazines. You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline and at Twitter as well.