Happy Birthday, Brandon Roy! His Top 5 Moments From a Career Cut Too Short

The Pacific Northwest’s former favorite son, Brandon Roy, turns 29 today, which is crazy for those of us who were lucky enough to watch him during his first five seasons with Portland. It seems like Roy’s been around a lot longer, and 29 is the year most player’s reach the apogee of their careers before the downward slide in their thirties. But Roy’s knees had other plans, and after an aborted comeback attempt in Minnesota this year, he’s likely going to retire again, soon. So it’s the perfect time to look back at five his best moments as pro.

Roy’s athleticism slowly ebbed away with each ensuing knee injury, but before his knees robbed him of his prime, he still had plenty of moments to immortalize him in Trail Blazers lore, and lead many of us to wonder: what if? What if he’d stayed healthy? Would Portland have ever contended for a title?

Without going to far down the what if rabbit hole, lets take a look back at his top five moments as a pro. You’ll notice none came during his short-lived return to the league this year with the ‘Wolves, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is Roy’s shining star burned so brightly at the beginning that it ultimately burned out way too soon.

5. Roy Switches hands during lay-up over Chris Bosh and the Raptors

In mid-December of 2007, Roy’s Blazers took on Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon of the Raptors. While the game didn’t feature any late-game heroics from Roy like you’ll see further down our list, it did include a mid-air switch of hands for a lay-up that harkens back to Michael Jordan‘s much-celebrated switch mid-air during the 1991 NBA Finals against Magic Johnson’s Lakers.

Roy would finish with a game-high 25 points on an efficicent 10-for-16 shooting from the field along with 9 boards and 8 dimes. That was the all-around game that was so mesmerizing about Roy’s contributions to the Blazers. They went on to win the game by holding the Raptors to just 13 fourth quarter points, but everyone will remember Roy’s mid-air switch, which bamboozled a rotating Chris Bosh.

4. The final 2:50 against the Hawks in 2008

In January of 2008, the same year as his mid-air switch against Toronto, Roy again came up as a hero in a game against the Atlanta Hawks. Down 19 at one point in the third and 15 at the half, the Blazers battled back to get a 94-93 victory.

Roy was the biggest reason on both sides of the court. He scored 8 of his 24 points over the final 2:47 of the game, and clinched the victory with some excellent defense against Joe Johnson in the final minute and a block on Josh Smith. For the game, Roy was 9-for-15 for 24 points to go with 5 rebounds. In just his second year, Roy was showing he had big game potential, especially in the pressure-packed fourth quarter.

3. Career high 52 points on National TV

We’ve reminisced about this game before, but in case you forgot we’ll jog your memory.

In December of Roy’s third season, he exploded against the Phoenix Suns during a nationally televised TNT game right before the Christmas break. For the game he did not commit a single turnover while shooting 14-for-27 from the field and 5-for-7 from three for 52 points. He added 5 rebounds and 6 assists to lead his Blazers to a 124-119 victory over Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and the run-and-gun Suns.

The 52-point outburst remains the second highest single-game scoring effort in Trail Blazers history and goes a long way towards explaining why his knee troubles led to despondent Blazers fans who had fallen in love with his all-around greatness.

2. Game-winner over the Houston Rockets in November 2008

This early 2008-09 regular season game could have gone down as one of the rare times Brandon Roy lost it for his team. But he made it one of the biggest moments of his career after he hit a big shot, made a huge error, then hit another big shot to steal the win.

With under 10 seconds to go in OT, Portland and Houston were even at 96. But some curlicue spinning into a jumper from the right wing by Roy over Tracy McGrady gave the Trail Blazers a 2-point lead with just 1.9 seconds left. That’s when disaster seemingly struck.

After a timeout to advance the ball, the Rockets threw the ball to Yao Ming on the left baseline as he turned and hit a jumper while getting fouled by Roy with just 0.9 seconds remaining. Yao hit the ensuing free throw after the reaching foul by Roy, to give Houston a 99-98 lead. All appeared lost with under a second to play.

The Blazers advanced the ball, and with very little time, Roy came out for the ball near mid-court so Steve Blake could get it to him with only enough time to turn and fire. That’s exactly what Roy did, and his high-arcing shot over the outstretched hands of Houston defenders hit nothing but twine.

It was a heroic comeback after the foul on Yao, and remains one of Roy’s greatest moments ever while also being one of the more exciting conclusions to a regular season NBA game in the last decade.

1. Comeback win against Dallas in game 4 of the 2011 playoffs

This is the most recent Roy memory from during the 2011 playoffs; with all the knee troubles relegating Roy to a bench role, he would later say it was likely he wouldn’t be able to pull off this type of performance ever again. He turned out to be prophetic as he retired for medical reasons not long after, and couldn’t make it during a comeback with Minney this past season.

But Roy’s final act of basketball heroism is the stuff of legends and will be re-told by basketball Homer‘s long after he officially leaves the game.

Trailing the Dallas Mavericks 2 games to 1 in the opening round of the 2011 Western Conference playoffs, and facing an 18-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter against a talented Mavericks team spearheaded by Dirk Nowitzki, Brandon Roy performed his last miracle for the Blazers.

Roy dropped 18 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, going 8-for-10 from the field that period as his Blazers rallied to outscore the Mavs in the fourth 35-15, and win the game 84-82, to even the series 2-2. Roy hit the game-winning pull-up bank shot over the outstretched arms of the great Mavs defender, Shawn Marion, and Jason Terry‘s 3-point attempt at the buzzer to win fell off the iron to seal the Blazers’ victory.

As we all know now, those Mavericks weren’t any pushovers, either. They would go on to win the series over Portland, and eventually knock off the favored Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals for Dirk’s lone championship.

For Trail Blazers fans that performance in the fourth quarter, while in danger of going down 3-1, was the biggest—and unfortunately, last—moment of Roy’s injury-plagued career.

Happy birthday Brandon Roy. We’ll always miss you.

What is your favorite Brandon Roy moment?

Follow Spencer on Twitter at @countcenci.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.