Brandon Roy GUARD, TEAM CAPTAIN

Brandon Roy could be the poster child for Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Watching Roy, the athlete, play for a quarter; hearing Roy, the person, answer questions after a game; and observing Roy, the father, play with his two young children, is to know instantly and intimately that this gritty shooting guard is, as basketball scouts like to say, something special. Commentators call him an “old soul.” And his improvisational drives to the hoop have been compared to jazz.

His domination of an opponent might start with a slow-motion back-and-forth dribble, as he waits, waits, waits for the slightest shift in balance to exploit before exploding to the basket. An interview might begin with a chess master’s deconstruction of his own strengths and weaknesses. On the court and off, Roy’s talent puts him on a plane apart from his teammates. He knows this. When he first put up the hand-scrawled sticky-note reminder in his locker that read “Be humble,” it was a message meant solely for him. Now it’s a commandment for the entire Blazers team.

Staying grounded can’t be easy. In three seasons he’s been voted the Rookie of the Year and played in two All-Star games. Last season he earned a spot on the All-NBA Second Team. This year, Roy will likely be in the mix for the league’s Most Valuable Player.

Roy, the brand, is coming along nicely as well. The smiling assassin has appeared on the cover of Dime magazine and on the front of the NBA 10: The Inside video game. He sells sneakers for Nike in prime time, and with his freshly signed contract (five years, $80 million), he is the rare NBA creature to hold a prestigious “max contract”: the Blazers can’t legally pay him any more than that.

Naturally, great salaries beget great expectations, especially from the man cutting those checks, Paul Allen. The Microsoft co-founder and owner of pro football and soccer franchises is one of the world’s richest men, but so far he’s been unable to buy a championship. Putting his trust in Roy’s hands seems like the savviest of moves. Roy’s late-game calm recalls Jordan. His basketball intelligence earns him comparisons to Magic. His popularity in Portland rivals that of Clyde the Glide. But before this old soul can ascend to the realm of those legends, he must deliver the grail: an NBA championship.