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Brandon Roy

Posted June 17, 2009

By Nima Zarrabi

Looking back on his childhood, Brandon is grateful for all the family and community support he received through the years. He believes his involvement with youth sports made a tremendous impact on his life. “It was great for me because I didn’t have tunnel vision,” he says. “My parents made sports fun for me. It wasn’t supposed to be a career. It just worked out that way. It shouldn’t be a job when you’re a kid. You have your whole life to develop your skills and you shouldn’t put pressure on kids to be great at sports at such a young age.”

Brandon was raised in a very athletic home in the city of Seattle. His father Tony played guard at Seattle’s Lincoln and Garfield high schools, graduating in 1982. Following his marriage to his wife Gina and the birth of the family’s oldest son Ed, Tony entered the Marine Corps. Brandon was born in 1984 while his father was stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. The Roy family eventually returned to Seattle where Tony drove Metro buses for 17 years and Gina worked for the Seattle school district. According to his father, Brandon was not the type of kid who would get bored. He was always entertaining himself and sports became a great outlet. Brandon’s first interaction with organized sports came via an introduction to indoor soccer as a 5-year-old. His parents had asked him if he wanted to play and at first he resisted. “I didn’t want to play by myself,” he says. “I wanted to play with my brother because I was kind of scared. He would always lookout for me and I started just going to part of his practices and then all of the practices and then started playing in games.”

Being that his brother Ed was two years older, at age five Brandon was competing against seven-year-olds. He hardly noticed the age difference. “I don’t remember much except that it was the most fun I ever had,” he says. “We didn’t even keep score. I fell in love with competition. I wanted to get involved in more sports from that. It was great having a team and being competitive. It was eight games in one day.”

Soccer opened the door to an array of new sports for Brandon. Baseball, football, basketball, track and karate became a part of his life during his elementary school years. The gridiron soon took over as his first sporting passion. “I really loved football,” he says. “We loved playing at recess—rain, snow, whatever. It would be twenty versus twenty and it was a great time. I loved soccer too because I got to play striker and was always involved.”

Eventually, Brandon grew less fond of individual pursuits like track and field and karate, gravitating more toward team sports where he felt a greater connection. “I just didn’t like track,” he says. “It didn’t feel like a team even though it was. I grew up with a pretty big family so team made more sense to me. Karate was the same too. It was kind of an individual sport. I enjoyed being on a team with friends. Winning and losing together.”

Being in such a close knit and athletic family made it easy for Brandon to express his feelings about sports. Brandon’s parents served as his early role models and had a huge influence on his childhood and athletic development. “My dad coached all of my teams,” Brandon recalls. “My mom went to all of our practices. Every single one. She made us do our homework first and then would take us to practice. They were there for everything and it was great to see them while I was playing.”

His parents would push him to succeed by offering good advice and encouraging Brandon to strive for his best performance. At the same time, they stressed the fun aspect of sports. “They were always laughing and took me for ice cream afterwards,” Brandon says. “They made me feel really comfortable out there.”

Another major influence on Brandon’s early years was Ed. Brandon idolized him. “He was huge for my development,” he says. “ It was my Dad, Edward and Michael Jordan as my favorite athletes. My brother was always encouraging me. If I lost or failed at something, he was always there for me. I was always trying to be like him. He was a great athlete and good at every sport.”

Having an older brother also meant Brandon was constantly competing against older competition. The age difference helped challenge Brandon at an early age and having his brother by his side for the ups and downs helped keep his confidence high. “Playing with Ed helped,” Brandon says. “When I played against my own age group, it made it easier.”

As he entered high school, Ed found stardom immediately. At the same time, after finishing seventh grade at Hamilton middle school, Brandon decided to focus all of his energy towards basketball. “I cut off all other sports at that time,” Brandon says. “Soccer and football were outdoors and it was too cold for me especially in Seattle. Basketball was great. It was indoors and getting new sneakers was cool too. My dad wanted me to play basketball and my mom wanted me to play football. I was getting closer to high school and I wanted to play one sport and try my best to play basketball. And I was pretty good at it. I felt like I had more to prove at basketball too. I was really good at football and baseball and not as good at basketball. Basketball was the challenge to prove to others I could play this sport at a high level.”

The summer before his freshman year at Garfield High School, Brandon grew three inches to 6-4. Always the son of Tony Roy and little brother of Ed, now Brandon was beginning to attract attention as a potential player in his own right. After playing on the junior varsity his freshman year, Brandon made varsity as a sophomore, earning yet another chance to play with Ed, then a senior.

When Ed graduated, Brandon—now 6-6—blossomed into a star. He averaged 23 points per game as a senior, earning player of the year honors in the KingCo Conference and a selection to the all-state team. He passed on a scholarship offer from Lute Olson of Arizona to stay home and play for the University of Washington Huskies (UW). But his entry to UW had a few hurdles. The coach he committed to—Bob Bender—was fired the following spring. To complicate matters, Brandon had yet to achieve the necessary score needed on the SAT to be admitted to UW. With his future uncertain, Brandon declared for the NBA draft in 2002 without signing with an agent, leaving the college option still open.

Roy met with new Husky coach Lorenzo Romar. Romar—who had won a national title as an assistant at UCLA under head coach Jim Harrick—was brought in to revive a Husky program he played for in the late seventies. The two immediately clicked. Romar liked Brandon’s easy going nature and Roy began to envision a future at UW under the new coach. In the meantime, Brandon worked at a shipping-container plant in the early mornings, lifting containers and cleaning. In the afternoon, he would study for the SAT.

Brandon eventually withdrew his name from the draft and earned the necessary SAT score. At Washington, Roy was surrounded by childhood friends Nate Robinson, Will Conroy and Tre Simmons. A key contributor early on, Brandon helped the Huskies reach the NCAA tournament during his second season. The Huskies would return to the big dance during his junior year, a season that featured Brandon as the team’s sixth man. By his senior year, word was out: Washington had a big time player. It may have took four years for everyone to notice, but by then basketball aficionados had begun to appreciate Brandon’s game. “Some of it had to do with his childhood buddies having graduated,” Romar says of Roy’s emergence. “Before, he wasn’t content with being a leader. He had grown into it and realized he had a gift for it. He had a very successful senior year.”

In late June of 2006, the boy who used to sit in class and listen to teachers explain how only one in a million kids make it to the NBA, became the exception. After initially being drafted by Minnesota, Portland pulled off a draft day trade to acquire Brandon’s rights. The Roy family was ecstatic. Separated by a mere three-hour drive from Seattle, Brandon’s close knit family would be nearby his new home in Portland.

It didn’t take long for NBA fans to take notice of Brandon’s ability. He was named NBA rookie of the year in 2007. He followed that up with All-Star appearances the past two seasons, and a trip to the playoffs this year—the team’s first since 2003. Not bad for a once unassuming star who would get scolded at times by coaches for his effortless style. When the ball’s in Brandon’s hands, the game looks easy. “Don’t let his mellow demeanor deceive you,” Romar jokes. “Brandon is a fierce assassin, a killer on the court. He is very competitive.”

Off the court, Brandon takes his responsibility as a role model seriously. The father of two children with fiancée Tiana Bardwell, Brandon has embraced his role as a community leader by starting a foundation built to provide under served youth with adequate academic and athletic resources. Despite a soft-spoken and unassuming nature, Roy’s undeniable talents on the court have led to endorsements with major corporations such as Nike. While he enjoys the opportunities that have come his way early in his career, Brandon is very focused on the future. Two of his long-term goals consist of bringing an NBA title to Portland and earning a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. “I was extremely proud of Team USA’s gold medal run as an American and a basketball fan,” Brandon says. “ With the team we have in Portland right now, we have a realistic chance to win an NBA title in the coming years. These are two goals moving forward.”

 
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