What Is Dead May Never Die: NBA players who left too soon

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The human body is a wondrous machine. We are stronger than we think, smarter than we think, capable of so much more than we think. Yet, despite the body’s remarkable design, it is also fragile — a wrong twist of the leg or an overextension of the arm, however slight, however simple, can cause irreparable damage. Sports don’t exactly help matters, what with the inhuman twisting, turning, accelerating, stopping, leaping and crashing. Over time, or even in an instant, those actions have consequences, and can rob a player of their incredible gifts, forcing them away from the game prematurely . Here, now, are Hardwood Paroxysm’s  favorite NBA players robbed of their full potential due to injuries.

Oct 13, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Brandon Roy (3) against the Chicago Bulls at the Target Center. The Timberwolves defeated the Bulls 82-75. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Roy

By Jordan White (@JordanSWhite)

The one phrase I keep returning to whenever I write about Brandon Roy (which is far too often) is “uncommon grace.” Roy seemed to glide effortlessly along the court, making even the most sudden, normally violent movements — crossovers, step-backs, one-handed dunks — appear balletic. Roy was a slightly stocky, old-school two-guard in a new-age NBA. The offense ran through him, for better or for worse, as any attempts to pair him with a natural point guard ended poorly. He was sneakily athletic, rather than outright explosive. He could squeeze in between the crevices of a defense while still perfectly maintaining his dribble, as if the ball were merely an extension of his limb. At his peak, he rivaled Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant as the best two guard in the league, one of the best closers in the game and an undeniable superstar.

But the knees. Man, those knees. Roy had a history of knee problems even before he came to the NBA, and over time, those problems only increased. It came to the point where Roy had no meniscus in his knees, causing bone-on-bone grinding due to the lack of padding. After that, Roy’s deterioration on the court was sad and sudden. The grace was gone, as was the ability to explode to the rim or make any sort of sharp cut. The frustration was evident in his actions and words, as he believed himself still capable of his former feats, despite all evidence to the contrary. No matter how much rest the Blazers allowed him, or how much they monitored his minutes, Roy would never recover to his full form.

The basketball gods granted Roy, and by extension, fans, one final act of kindness — his swan song, if you will. In 2011, in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs, Roy single-handedly brought the Blazers back from the brink of elimination, scoring 18 points in the final frame and looking every bit the cool, collected, heroic phenom.

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