17,510 points. 4,726 assists. 2,143 made threes. Two of the most memorable game winners to win a playoff series. One organization.
On this day ten years ago today, the Portland Trail Blazers took a chance on a kid from Oakland. They took a chance on a two-star high school recruit that committed to Weber State University. They took a chance on four-year collegiate athlete Damian Lillard and never looked back.
For an entire decade Damian Lillard has defined leadership at it’s highest standards and positioned himself as not just arguably the greatest Trail Blazer of all-time but has become a pillar of the community. It is not very often that professional athletes go above and beyond off the court to show their gratitude towards a fan base but Damian Lillard has done just that.
As fans, it is common and justified to question the play of the athletes. Criticism is part of the game, and will be till the end of time. However, the character of Damian Lillard is one thing that cannot be questioned.
In June of 2021, Damian Lillard was nominated as a finalist for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award. Following being drafted in 2012, Lillard implemented the RESPECT Program, a program that helps mentor throughout Portland high schools. Lillard’s constant acknowledgment of the difference he can make off the court with his platform alone is astounding and highly respected amongst the fans and organization.
While his off-court contributions will forever be revered by all, Damian Lillard the basketball player has become one of the most lethal offensive threats the league has to offer. With career averages of 24.0 points, 7.3 assists, and a three-point percentage of 37.3%, Lillard enters his 11th season as the second all-time leading scorer in franchise history and trails number one Clyde Drexler by just 530 points.
In the summer of 2015, Portland had four of their five starters depart for greener pastures, leaving Lillard alone to steer a ship that for all intents and purposes was sinking. Lillard, however, did not waver and fought tooth and nail to drag the new-look Blazers to the playoffs. From that point forward, Lillard has missed the playoffs just once, coming in 2022 when injuries and changes in management had plagued the season in the early stages.
While Portland has yet to find themselves in the upper echelon of competing teams, the rare loyalty displayed by Lillard has continued to keep the ship just above the water. He consistently gives the organization life in times when it seems all hope is lost. A one-of-a-kind human being, a great leader, a pillar of the community. Damian Lillard has been everything you could hope of in terms of a franchise cornerstone.
On this day, it is important as a collective to count our blessings as we have Damian Lillard leading our team out of that tunnel every night. Here is to what all Blazer fans could only hope is a legacy-defining 10 more years for the Letter O!