I woke up to some really sad news for myself as basketball fan. Learning that T.J Ford has shut it down for the rest of the season and most likely his NBA Career. T.J was the first NBA player to talk with us here in the Dino Nation Blog. He was one of my all-time favorite NBA players. When Bryan Colangelo acquired Ford from the Bucks it was one of my personal most exciting moments. I had become a fan of Ford during his career at Texas. There was something about the way he played the game that appealed to me on some level. He was far from the biggest guy on the floor. However he played at such a high rate of speed with an aggressive nature and swagger to it all. He may not have been the biggest dog in the fight but he played like he was. That fearless nature he had would lead to some great moments and some devastating injuries. As tough as Ford played the game it was perhaps his mental toughness that I would grow to admire more. After his injury in Milwaukee his bright NBA future was put in serious doubt. However after a long rehabilitation he came back and was that same aggressive T.J Ford.
Still, with Ford gone for the Bucks it would lead to the emergence of his back up Mo Williams and led to T.J being expendable for Milwaukee. That would bring him to Toronto and make me one of the happiest people on earth at the time. He would bring all that fire and passion to the Raptors. He would team up with Chris Bosh and it was an optimistic time for the Raptors. Perhaps for the first time since Vince Carter had left town. He would be backed up by Jose Calderon and the two became an unstoppable 1-2 punch for the Raptors at the point guard position. They were the perfect compliments to each other. All would be fine until some started to feel that Calderon maybe should be the 1 in that 1-2 punch. Still Ford remained as the starter and Sam Mitchell would juggle between the two. It would lead to a point guard controversy. Ford would be a spectator watching Calderon turnover the ball in game six to the Nets and the Raptors season would be over.
T.J would start to be painted as a villain by some. The only reason being that he was unwilling to surrender his starting role. He was not afraid to say that he wanted to be the starter and that was that. In contrast Calderon would say he would do what was best for the team and just wanted to win. It seemed to be suggested by omission that Ford didn't want to win. He did want to win, he just felt that he as the starter was the best way to achieve that. Still, Ford would remain in the starting role and everything remained fine until that fateful night in Atlanta. T.J Ford was having perhaps one of the best games of his NBA Career and as he was about to finish off a lay-up in a game that was basically done it happened again. Ford would be sent crashing to earth by Al Horford. I to this day maintain it was a stupid and unnecessary play by the then Hawks rookie. Ford would leave the court on a stretcher with fear in his eyes. No doubt going through haunting memories of his last serious injury at the hands of Mark Madsen. While Ford never held any ill will towards Horford, as one of his biggest fans I sure did. This would cause a series of events that would lead to the ultimate implosion of "Forderon". While T.J faced another long road back to getting on the floor, Jose Calderon was coming out and taking his game to another level. Late that season Ford would return and at first would not be given his starting job back. He struggled in a reserve role to Calderon. Some labelled it as T.J sulking. Which was grossly unfair, this guy had to fight back from physical injuries and no doubt some mental hurdles to return. All to be told thanks for that, but were not going to give you your position back. This after a game before his injury where he had perhaps his best game as Raptor. Eventually Sam Mitchell was forced to once again make Ford the starting point guard. Mitchell said at the time it was at the suggestion of Calderon. Again Ford was painted as the selfish villain and Calderon the hero. The Raptors would limp into the playoffs and play the Orlando Magic. Aside from one game in Toronto both Ford and Calderon were out played by Nelson for the Magic.
It led to the off-season where it all came to an end. Ford stayed consistent in his desire to remain the starter. Jose Calderon was about to become a free agent which made this even more of an issue. After a season of saying he wanted what was best for this team in his first interview back in Spain Jose was singing a different tune. It was the same tune that T.J had said consistently for two years. I have always seen this as a pretty cowardly act on the part of Calderon. Still in the end it worked for Jose, as he got a brand new big money contract and Ford was moved in what turned out to be a horrible trade for both the Raptors and him to the Pacers. T.J would never really have the same success with the Pacers. Still the Pacers clearly won this trade for the other part of the deal, that saw them collect the Raptors draft pick that season and turned it into Roy Hibbert. The Raptors got stuck with Jermaine O'Neal who lasted less than half a season in Toronto and a second round draft pick in Nathan Jawai that never panned out.
After watching his role with Pacers melt away to next to nothing by the end of his time there an older and more accepting T.J Ford would find a new home not far from his home of Houston with the Spurs. He would also have a fellow Texas product to mentor and teach behind him in Cory Joesph. But sadly, Ford once again had to battle injuries and has decided to shut it down for the season and perhaps his NBA Career. He has two kids a son and daughter and he seems to worry about his own quality of life and ability to be there for them. I hope the best for T.J Ford in whatever he does going forward with his life. He was not the bad person that some in midst of a heated point guard controversy tried to paint him out to be. He was and is a person with a lot of fire, drive and determination. All qualities that I personally have always admired.
He has always been known for having a big smile on his face more times than not. I never did get a chance to talk with him his last time through Toronto. It was not through lack of effort on my part. He is still loved by so many people here in Toronto. He really made a impact in his time here. In fact he has done that all along his basketball journey. He loves the program that took him to the NBA in Texas. If it is possible to bleed burnt orange it likely pumps through T.J Ford's veins. He through that love of Texas has had a positive impact on three young Canadians with that love. Sam Mitchell once said he would want his daughter to date a guy like Jose Calderon. I personally if I had a daughter would rather she found a guy like T.J Ford. He is someone that has overcome a lot all in just trying to follow his dreams and his love of the game.
When you look back on his career there will be lots of "what if" moments, it does not change the thing that made him great. The tremendous heart and determination he brought to the game of basketball. I don't think he is done in that either. While he may never play another NBA game the chances he remains involved in basketball in some form or fashion is high. He has always been one to share his knowledge help others grow. I would venture to say that will continue in some form and he will contribute to the game in that way.
For myself, I am sad to see someone that I enjoyed no longer a part of the league anymore. But I am proud to have had the chance to have talked with one of my favorite athletes on a few occasions. He was the first guy in the NBA to be a part of this blog as I mentioned and that is something I will always remember. I wish him the best in whatever he chooses to do and will hopefully talk with him again down the line. The fact some people still love him as Raptor fans after all that went on, speaks to what he brought as both a player and person. He helped me love this game more and for that I am thankful too.