(PHOTO CREDIT: Argenta Images.)
Some of you may know who Donald Royal is. But most of you forgot that he had a big role for an excellent team at one time.
The New Orleans native played his college ball at Notre Dame. In the 1987 NBA Draft (when the NBA had like 454 rounds; kidding, they had 10), the Cleveland Cavaliers selected him 52nd overall in the 3rd round. But the Cavs waived him before the season started so Royal played in the Continental Basketball Association for two years.
Royal would get his first taste of NBA action with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1989. He played 66 games for the then first-year franchise, averaging 5.9 points and 2.1 rebounds. The Wolves chose not to retain him in the next season so it was off to Israel and the CBA again for Royal. Somewhere in that span, the Orlando Magic, the team that he would be mostly associated with, signed him for the first time… but he was waived before the 1991-92 season started. Royal would then get picked up by the Spurs at the end of 1991.
The Magic signed him in the summer of 1992 and had a career season, averaging 9.2 points and 3.8 boards off the bench in 1992-93. He would then become a mainstay of those strong mid-90s Magic teams. In 1994-95, he became Orlando’s starter at small forward. His sudden slashes were raved and a lot of the announcers mentioned that “Donald Royal had the best first step in the game.” I will never forget that. During the playoffs, though, Royal lost his starting spot in favor of Dennis Scott, whose 3-point shooting was becoming more and more of a weapon. In the Finals, he was completely out of the rotation. The Magic were swept out of the Finals.
Royal would get traded to the Golden State Warriors during the 1996-97 season. Then he got dealt again, this time to the Charlotte Hornets. In the following season, he returned to the Magic on a 10-day contract. The Magic would waive him once again… and he returned to the Hornets for the rest of the season. That would be his final season. Royal averaged 6.3 points and 2.8 boards in 504 total games (9 seasons).
Donald Royal was diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 1998. He would beat it eventually… but he never played another NBA minute.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Eliot Kamenitz/The Advocate.)
The most recent thing of Royal I could find was when he was helping out a basketball youth clinic held by the National Basketball Retired Players Association last year in his native New Orleans. He seems to be doing well.
I will always remember Donald Royal with that incredible first step of his. But I will now also remember him for his courage and for beating cancer. Shoutout to Mr. Donald Royal.
Follow Rey-Rey on Twitter at @TheNoLookPass for NBA nonsense.