The future of Seattle sports philanthropy is on a roll. Brandon Roy went sixth overall in the NBA draft, won Rookie of the Year and witnessed...
The future of Seattle sports philanthropy is on a roll. Brandon Roy went sixth overall in the NBA draft, won Rookie of the Year and witnessed the birth of his first child in the past 14 months. And then, to top it off, he won the lottery.
OK, so it was the NBA draft lottery, but still …
Roy swaggers into the gym at Mercer Island High for a basketball camp in late July. He’s volunteering across the water from where he grew up and grew tall and grew into one of the best basketball players on the planet.
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And now that all his dreams are falling into place, Roy feels an instinctual urge, same as so many athletes, to give where he once received.
Next up: The Brandon Roy Foundation.
“I can’t wait,” Roy says. “It’s a dream of mine.”
At least 35 athletes with Seattle ties have started charities. Roy wants to be next.
Like all the athletes who came before him, the 23-year-old is at the very beginning of the process. He wants to give back on a grander scale. He has an idea for his charity. He’s seeking advice.
“Find something you’re passionate about,” Jamal Crawford, another local NBA product and a friend, told Roy.
Roy attended an event this summer hosted by Crawford, who opened his house to raise $15,000 for athletic trainers in Seattle Public Schools.
Roy thought back to the beginning, to Garfield High School and the University of Washington and all the people who helped him along the way.
He came this close, that little space between thumb and forefinger, to not making it. A top-50 recruit as a high-school senior, he entered the NBA draft only to withdraw his name. After high school, he worked at a shipping-container plant and waited for the SAT score that would decide his college fate.
So many people pushed him, with tutoring and encouragement and advice. Roy secured eligibility and enrolled at Washington in January 2003. He wonders what might have happened had his talent not been prodigious.
“I look back at a lot of circumstances and challenges I had to face growing up,” Roy says. “Just being in the inner city and going to public schools. I see so many guys that are my age that weren’t successful because they didn’t have the proper tools.”
That’s the idea Roy grabbed hold of. Help kids in similar situations. Give them those same tools.
Roy discussed his vision with three people he trusted — Lorenzo Romar, his coach at UW; Nate McMillan, his current coach with the Portland Trail Blazers; and Arn Tellem, his agent. Roy told them he wanted to help kids.
He needed a personal cause, something that tugged at heartstrings and motivated him. He eventually thought about older brother Ed.
Those who watched the two of them sometimes wondered if Ed Roy had the most talent. But his career ended at the junior-college level.
The difference between the two, Brandon says, is that Ed was diagnosed with a learning disability too late to get the help he needed to reach college. Brandon often wonders: What if teachers had diagnosed his brother earlier?
That became the focus of his idea. Help kids with learning disabilities. Reach them early, in fourth or fifth grade, instead of high school.
“When things didn’t work out for him [Ed], it made me more passionate about making it,” Roy says, “and starting a foundation. So that another kid doesn’t have to struggle or always have that in the back of his mind: ‘Maybe if I would have been helped earlier, I would have had a better chance.’ “
That’s Brandon Roy, Romar says. The guard used to come to his coach between games, talk about a teammate’s struggles, ask if the coach wouldn’t mind him stepping in. Of course, Romar always said.
“He’s always looking to help,” Romar says. “But he doesn’t do it with a lot of fanfare. He does it behind the scenes.”
Starting his own charity marks the next step in Roy’s evolution as an athlete and a brand. He’s still in the idea stage, blissfully unaware of the problems that plague some athletes’ charities. Of course, no athlete starts a charity and considers it a bad idea. Like a good jump shot, it’s the follow-through that really matters.
Still, this is Brandon Roy we’re talking about. He remains a local product, grounded in gratitude toward the city that raised him.
The future of Seattle sports philanthropy is on a roll. Roy’s Blazers just drafted Greg Oden, who is projected as the best NBA big man since Tim Duncan. The 6-foot-6 guard recently finished his first pro season, welcomed his first child and, if all goes well, will soon start his own charity.
The Blazers presented the Rookie of the Year award to Roy at a private school for inner-city children in Portland. Roy looked around at the tutors and the gym and the music studio, and the idea began to crystallize.
“I would love to start something like that one day in Seattle,” he says.
Next up: The Brandon Roy Foundation.
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or email@example.com
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org