Brandon Roy’s basketball career came full circle on Sunday. After the University of Washington’s Alumni Game, where he returned to the court where he first reached national prominence, Roy told reporters he’s almost certainly played his last game in the NBA.
“I haven’t come out and said it publicly, but for me mentally, I’ve just started to settle into living a normal life,” he said. “I haven’t officially announced anything, but right now I haven’t thought about playing in the NBA.”
This decision seems far more likely to stick than Roy’s first retirement in December 2011, when he walked away from the Portland Trail Blazers after the lockout. Then, Roy was gobsmacked by the assessment that his knees had deteriorated too badly to continue playing. So when an American version of the Orthokine knee treatment that has helped several NBA players offered Roy the hope of improved health, he returned to the league with the Minnesota Timberwolves last summer.
That comeback lasted just five games before Roy suffered a setback. He underwent knee surgery in the hopes of returning, but never made it back on the court. On May 10, Minnesota waived Roy, clearing his non-guaranteed contract from the salary cap.
While Roy might not have found the second act he hoped for, last season did help him come to peace with the end of his career.
“Any time you walk away from the game, you have what ifs,” Roy said. “I feel like I was able to answer those questions last year by going out there and giving it a try. For me, it’s a little bit easier to walk away. It’s never going to be easy, but it’s a little smoother knowing I gave it a try and now it’s time to move on.”
Roy, who won’t turn 29 until next month, enjoyed a meteoric NBA career. He arrived in the league as the 2006-07 Rookie of the Year and made three All-Star appearances and two All-NBA teams in five seasons in Portland. Had his knees cooperated, Roy would still have been in the prime of his career. Instead, he’s preparing to move on to a new one, probably involving basketball and perhaps coaching.
While Roy said he plans to continue to train with the Seattle natives and UW products who spend their summers preparing to play in the NBA, his basketball exploits will probably be limited to future UW Alumni Games. On Sunday, he showed glimpses of his former self, including a vintage three-point play off the dribble. More often his knees got the better of him, and he drew nothing but air on his last two shot attempts in the fourth quarter.
Still, after getting the loudest ovation of the day from a sold-out Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Roy was at peace with a journey that took him from making $11 an hour as a dock worker while awaiting his qualifying SAT score to NBA stardom.
“I remember sitting in those nosebleed seats when I was waiting to get into school,” he said. “To sit back and look at things 10, 11 years later and look back on what I’ve been able to accomplish over my basketball career, it’s been really great. Really satisfying. We all wish we could play longer, but in my case I feel like I gave it all I had and I have a lot of great memories to look back on.”