Originally written on Juiced Sports Blog  |  Last updated 11/17/14

SHANE SMITH

When modern sporting games were at their inception, it was believed that games like baseball and basketball would instill a form of virtue lacking from the sporting culture emerging in early America. These games would teach children and men the virtues of life:  how to win and lose gracefully, how to work within a team, and how to demonstrate patriotism and respect. Somewhere between 19th century townball and Dr. Naismith we got the sports culture we have today: everyone seeking the almighty dollar and loyalty being laughed at for even being considered in the business we call the sports world.

Recently I was speaking with a friend who is not overly familiar with the world of sports. She posed a question that I thought was fair for someone who sees our favorite pastimes as trivial:

“If you as a fan are so loyal to a team, where is the loyalty from the athletes you love, and the teams they fight for?”

Her question was more or less in reference to the ever popular South Beach decision by Mr. James. That said, she makes a great point. These games that were supposed to help our culture and provide life lessons for the masses very rarely consider loyalty a virtue in today’s world. Whether it is LeBron leaving his hometown team stranded to play with some of his buddies, a team giving up on its 10 year veteran 5 years too soon, or even a low end D-1 scholarship that gets taken away from a kid who has worked his whole life for a shot at education over an injury, loyalty is hanging on by a thread to keep its place in the sports world.

But something happened recently in the NBA that brings back hope.

The Portland Trail Blazers have had heart break season after heart break season and a slew of injuries and let downs. For the past 3 years or so, analysts have praised the Blazers prior to the start of the season as a team to beat:  a team who is ready to finally break through.  Yet every season something unpredictable seems to go wrong. The most pressing issue plaguing the Blazers recently has been with star guard Brandon Roy.

Roy is a product of Seattle, Washington. He grew up there, played high school ball there, and eventually starred at the University of Washington. As an NBA rookie Roy played as close to home as he could be in Portland, Oregon (without being selected by the eventually relocated Sonics.)

From 2006 up through today Roy has been a fixture in the Portland community, a star player and a star role model. However beginning in 2010 Roy began experiencing nagging knee injuries. At the beginning of the 2010-11 season reports surfaced that Roy would potentially never be able to ever play at an all star level again due to a dangerous lack of cartilage in his knees. Reporters speculated that Roy could have as little as two seasons left in him. In early 2011 Roy underwent surgery for both of his knees and returned to a reserve role for his team.

Flash forward to the first round of the NBA playoffs: Game 4. The Dallas Mavericks lead the Blazers by as much as 23 points, enter Brandon Roy. Roy sparked one of the most magical scoring runs you will ever see at the professional level. He rattled off 21 points in the final 15 minutes of the game, including a game tying 4 point play with under a minute to go. The Blazers went on to win Game 4, but lose the series; however this brilliant playoff performance gave Roy and his critics a new light of hope for his NBA career.

Despite Roy’s incredible performance in Game 4, nothing changed with the medical status of his knees. Roy still cannot play a full 82 game season with minutes that warrant the $63 Million dollars remaining on his contract.

One of the caveats of the recent NBA lockout allows teams something called an “amnesty clause.” This clause would allow teams to opt out of one contract and have that contract not count against the salary cap.

The Blazers are currently a team just over the cap and could free up a lot of money to sign free-agents if they used their amnesty clause on Roy. However, out of loyalty for Roy and what he provides to the community and team the Blazers have opted to keep him on the roster despite his maximum contract. Roy may never again put up the numbers he once was capable of, and his output will probably never equal that of other max contract recipients, but what Roy will do is be a leader, a role model, and still be a great basketball player. Thanks to a show of virtue by the Portland front office, he will continue to do that for the team, and the community, that he has worked so hard for.

Thank you Portland for doing what so many teams fail to do now, sticking by your player when hes fallen on hard times.

Photo: Getty
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