Commentary

Brandon Roy's second chance

He'd apparently all but given up on himself until his coach gave him another opportunity

Originally Published: April 25, 2011
By Scoop Jackson | ESPN.com

They say all someone needs sometimes is a chance. And sometimes, that chance comes with someone else's belief in a person.

Keep that in mind as you read this.

Brandon Roy should retire. Right now. He should simply walk up to the podium this week during the Trail Blazers-Mavericks series and just announce to the world that he's done with the game of basketball.

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Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesFor a time, it was as if Brandon Roy couldn't bear to watch what was happening to him.

He should say that even though there is more for him to prove and plenty more to play for, there is, in his particular case, nowhere to go but back down to the hell from which he came, the hell he was in. That was the emotional emptiness and his feeling of worthlessness as a basketball player. And to avoid it again, he needs to call it a career.

He should just say that, after going through all that over the last week, he's never had the feeling of personal euphoria he's feeling right now. And he should say it's a feeling he knows he'll never come close to ever feeling again.

If he ends it now, albeit a selfish move, we'll all understand, because we, too, know we'll probably never see a story unfold like this again. At least not anytime soon. At least not this fast. Within a span of four games, Roy experienced every (in)conceivable high and low, every athlete's worst nightmare and greatest dream.

Game 1: 26 minutes. 1-of-7 from the field. Two points. Blazers lose.

Game 2: Less than eight minutes. 0-for-1 from the field. 0-for-2 from the foul line. Zero points. Blazers lose. Postgame meltdown.

"There was a point in the first half and I was thinking, 'You better not cry.'" Roy said after Game 2. "I mean, serious. I mean, there was a moment where I felt really sorry for myself … I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little hurt or disappointed. But the biggest thing is to keep moving, to try to keep my spirits up. But it's tough man, I just … I just always thought I'd be treated better. But … it is what it is. I'll be all right. I'll go home and see my kids and be happy."

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Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesHe said he'd be all right. Apparently, he is.

Game 3: Seven points in the last two minutes of the third quarter. Helps give the team momentum and a lead it never relinquishes. Finishes with 16 points in 24 minutes. Blazers win. Claims afterward he was in "go mode." Saying, "I didn't worry about nothing else. I didn't worry about playing time. I didn't worry about who was playing. When it was my time, I was going."

Game 4: Down 23 in the third quarter, 18 in the fourth quarter, Roy single-handedly takes over the game. Scores 18 in the fourth and 24 for the game. Blazers win, tying the series, tying the second-largest fourth-quarter comeback in NBA playoff history.

Wesley Matthews Jr.: "We got our All-Star back!"

It's like what happened to Magic Johnson when he was named MVP of the 1992 All-Star Game after being diagnosed with HIV and having what seemed like half the League question his sexuality while the other half seemed scared (or ignorant) to be on the same court with him. But in Roy's case, it happened in a game that meant something.

It's Derek Fisher arriving late to a 2007 playoff game because he'd been with his family while his 2-year-old daughter had cancer surgery and then hitting the game-defining shot in overtime. But in Roy's case, it is more than making one shot.

This was about fear and self-loathing. Something Magic and Fisher never had to deal with.

This was about an athlete losing faith in himself right in front of our eyes. This wasn't about outside circumstances taking a toll on him, this was a man only five years deep into one of the game's more promising careers facing the possibility that his services might no longer be needed. This was Roy's basketball life flashing before his eyes while he sat on the bench. This was about a feeling of hopelessness. What can a superstar prove if he's only allowed to play eight minutes a game and take one shot?

Double knee surgeries in January. Playing only 47 games this season. Try being 26 years old and being shown the light at the end of your own tunnel. A three-time All-Star, the face of the franchise who couldn't break back into the starting lineup; who, game-by-game, was being depended upon less and less; whose purpose on his team was evaporating.

And here's where someone else's belief comes into play.

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Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesRoy's play in Game 4 pointed the way for the Trail Blazers.

Nate McMillan, the Portland head coach, had a decision to make. He heard Brandon's quotes after Game 2 and knew it was on him as to how it was going to play out.

Be fair to one player or be fair to the team? Theoretically lose his franchise player forever or lose a first-round playoff series to a team that in his heart -- even without Roy's services -- he felt they could beat?

He chose the player.

And since then, the player -- the same one who just days ago was on the verge of extinction -- has won one game, and willed his team to a second. All due to someone giving him a chance.

In the middle of Game 3, I posted a comment on my Facebook page. I said, "If Portland wins this game, Brandon Roy will be the best, most compelling story of the playoffs."

Many people responded in disagreement.

Then the fourth quarter of Game 4 happened. Then the messages on Facebook all of a sudden changed. They -- like me, like you -- saw the sports version of a resurrection.

They saw where Brandon Roy's story should end.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.

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