When it comes to this year’s Portland Trail Blazers, I can honestly say that I really like our players.
All of them.
And I don’t just like them as players, I like them as people. Granted, I don’t know them all that well, I only know them as much as any fan can know a professional athlete — through quotes, interviews, video clips, et cetera.
In my 20s, I spent many formative years cheering for all the talented-but-troubled players who have worn the red and black over the years (Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Isaiah Rider, Zach Randolph, etc.) so it makes it all the more satisfying to actually be able to cheer for a group of guys that are just as likable off the court as on.
Brandon Roy is the star, the go-to guy, the clubhouse leader and one of the main faces for our team. Because of this, and because the Blazers are starting to get more national press, there will continue to be throngs of people lining up to praise B-Roy — dubbed as “The Natural” by Blazers radio personality Brian Wheeler.
I share in that adoration, and I continue to be impressed by the way Roy continues to deliver in key moments, game after game after game. As is has been said ad nauseam by writers off every stripe who cover this team or the NBA in general, the Portland Trail Blazers have a great foundation in place with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and LastYear’sNumberOneDraftPick Greg Oden (yes, that’s his full name now).
But none of them are my favorite player.
My favorite player is Martell Webster. He’s the guy I put on the masthead of this blog, and he’s the one with whom I identify most. He’s articulate, he’s honest, he’s ambitious, he’s confident, and he’s from the Pacific Northwest.
(Yes, I know he’s from Seattle and not Portland. Nobody’s perfect.)
I still remember when I heard the news that the Blazers had drafted Webster… I was very, very pleased. I was living in Chicago at the time, and since there weren’t any other Blazer fans in my immediate circle, I was resigned to reading the OregonLive Blazers Blog.
And since we weren’t any good, really, most of the hope for our team was to be found in scouring stori about potential draft picks. As I sifted through all the information about which players would be available and where, I couldn’t help but notice that everything that was written about Webster seemed loaded with potential: ‘Good NBA body,’ ‘long range shooter,’ ‘eager to learn,’ ‘good work ethic,’ yada yada yada.
I’m thinking, where’s the downside? Is there some cocaine problem we don’t know about?
The clincher was when I read in a pre-draft story about the nickname that Webster had given himself. Normally I frown upon guys trying adopt a nickname on their own (that’s usually your friends’ job) but this one seemed to fit so well: The Definition.
A play on his surname, Webster stated in no uncertain terms that he wanted to be the very model of a modern NBA player. And he wanted that for all aspects of his game. He didn’t just want SportsCenter highlights. He wanted professionalism. He wanted consistency. He wanted to be great.
So I’ve been following Martell’s quest for greatness ever since. Over the years, he’s had his ups and downs. He’s been known mostly as a great shooter with confidence issues, who lacks the consistency to take it to the next level. When he first came into the league, Martell appeared to be somewhat of a sensitive soul who wore his earnest desire on his face at all times.
Now in his fourth year, Martell has been maturing all along. And he’s always shown evidence of that fire for greatness within, particularly in the way he’s responded to less-than-ideal circumstances.
He could’ve gotten upset when the Blazers drafted Brandon Roy, a guy who played the same position and who came up in the same city. But he didn’t. He could’ve taken veiled shots at the coaching staff when he was demoted to the D-League in his second year. But he refused. He could’ve been upset when he wasn’t invited to the Three Point Shootout, even though he shot pretty well from downtown last season. But he wasn’t.
And he could’ve pouted or gotten frustrated when he went down with his first real injury earlier this year. But he didn’t. And the evidence of that is in this interview with official Blazers blogger Casey Holdahl, where Marty says all the right things, and sounds like he actually means them:
When some players get injured they withdraw a bit from the team, but you’re on the bench for every home game and always at practice. Why?
Martell Webster: There’s no “I” in team. Just plain and simple. I know that’s just an old saying, but I always feel a part of this team. I love my teammates. The chemistry is incredible. We have a bond. Why would you want to be away from that? You want to be at ever game. Unfortunately I couldn’t go on the road trips because I was in the boot, but being here at home, sitting behind the bench at every game just makes me feel that much closer to getting back on the court. I love being there. It’s not a matter of needing to do it; I want to do it because I love being with this team.
Do you feel like you have a good balance right now between your personal and professional life?
Martell Webster: Yeah. When you think about it, kids commit more hours in school than we do to basketball all day. We come to practice for two hours and I get the rest of the day with my family. I feel blessed. We don’t deserve it, but I make sure that I play hard and I have no regrets. The most important thing is your family, but this is your job so you have to take care of this first. But two hours a day? Why would anyone complain about that?
How can you NOT root for this guy? Between this interview and his potential to get even cranky ex-journalists like Dwight Jaynes excited, the sky is the limit for Martell Webster.
So all you Blazer fans who keep bellyaching about how we could’ve drafted Chris Paul instead, put a sock in it. Trust me, you’ll forget all about Chris Paul when Martell starts raining down threes in the playoffs with regularity.
And I hope that one day, if I have a son, and my son expresses a desire to play basketball, I can buy him a poster or a bobblehead and say the following:
“You wanna know what a basketball player should be like? Here’s The Definition.”