Brandon Roy talks with Street Roots


Nov. 12, 2008

Brandon Roy, a scrappy kid who grew up on the streets of Seattle and soared at the University of Washington, is entering his third year in the NBA. Roy received “Rookie of the Year” honors his first year with Portland and became an “All-Star” in his second. He’s hoping to lead the Trail Blazers to their first playoff spot in the Western Conference since 2004.

Roy, who is a down to earth and highly intelligent athlete, sat down with Street Roots recently to talk about poverty and sports, life before the NBA and his goal to help individuals with learning disabilities to have a fighting chance in life.

Israel Bayer: Many people without a home look to the Blazers as a vehicle of hope in their lives. In many ways you and your teammates represent a flickering light at the end of the tunnel for many people living in poverty. Knowing this, does it motivate and inspire you as a human being and basketball player and why?

Brandon Roy: Yeah, it means a lot to us. Knowing that some people are down and still believe in us, we use that as an inspiration. You know we can’t always control wins or losses, but we can control our effort every night when we go out there.

At the end of the day we want people to say the Trail Blazers fought hard and they didn’t quit, anything is possible. I think that’s something we take a lot of pride in and we are motivated to give the city of Portland hope. We’re young, but we’re determined.
I.B. You worked on the Seattle docks cleaning shipping containers prior to going to college. What did that experience teach you?

B.R. It taught me a lot, man. I was able to see the working side of the people’s experiences. A lot of NBA basketball players don’t get that experience. They go from high school to college straight to the NBA.

I was working on the docks for almost a year. Nobody knew who I was. I was working right alongside everyone else, not getting paid what we might felt like we were deserved. Working with guys who have families. All of those folks told me, take advantage of this experience. If you go on to college and the NBA, you don’t want to come back to this. Of course, they didn’t say it like it was a bad thing. It was more if you have a chance to do more, do more. I really took that advice to heart. So every day when I’m playing now, and when I get tired, I remember those days on the docks and it motivates me.

I.B. If you weren’t playing basketball right now, what would you be doing?

B.R. It’s hard to say, but I definitely want to be a part of young people’s lives. Whether it’s teaching or coaching, it’s important to give people every opportunity to be successful and to develop our youth. That might mean sometimes getting on them and sometimes giving them advice. Those are some of the things I think about.

I.B. Tell us a little bit about the Brandon Roy Foundation.

B.R. The foundation just started. You know, in high-school I was diagnosed with a learning disability. For me it’s important that we are diagnosing kids at an earlier age. A lot of kids are diagnosed at 17 years old, and sometimes that’s too late. I want to give back to those kids and enhance our ability to diagnose kids in the fourth or fifth grade, so they can have a real fighting chance in this world. That’s what the foundation is about.

We’re helping raise money for programs and will be putting on a camp next summer for kids with learning disabilities to get involved and to reach out to the community. Not every kid is going to be on the same level when it comes to learning. I’m an example and I was able to have a successful life.

I.B. What would you say to those individuals that may be dealing with a learning disability, but ended up on the wrong side of the road?

B.R. It’s hard. I would tell them that life is never over. There’s always a fighting chance. You can only do the best that you can to make it better. Life is a journey. If you believe in yourself you always have a fighting chance. It’s never over. Never.

I.B. What do sports or basketball mean to you in the context of poverty?

B.R. You know, I came from a lower middle-class family and sport was a chance for me to escape that. You know, a lot of people say, basketball is a chance for you to make money, but it’s never been about the money for me. It was always a chance to escape my neighborhood, drugs, and gang violence.

We have to understand how much sports can do to keep kids out of trouble. And all kids and people want to be is a part of something. It’s not just about sports. It’s the school band and learning an instrument, the arts, they just want to be part of something. When so many are growing up in poverty, you have to keep kids involved and active. It’s crucial.

I.B. What are your thoughts on the Sonics leaving Seatown?

B.R. I’m really disappointed. I grew up in Seattle and have been watching the Sonics my whole life. For me, it was always nice to go home and play in front of my hometown. So yeah, I’m really disappointed and looking forward to Seattle getting a team back.

I.B. What are some of the things you appreciate about Portland?

B.R. The fans and loyalty is amazing. Portland feels like a family. It’s laid back. I love it.

By Israel Bayer
Reprinted from Street Roots (Oct. 31-Nov 13 edition)

One response to “Brandon Roy talks with Street Roots

  1. I am forever indebted to you for this ifornamtion.

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