Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard held his fifth annual community picnic in his old East Oakland neighborhood on Saturday. The event drew local kids to Brookfield Park, where they enjoyed an afternoon of fun and games with the NBA star. This year, even Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green and freshly drafted Memphis Grizzlies rookie Ivan Rabb were in attendance. Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated put boots on the ground to speak with Lillard about his hometown.
Lillard said he learned a lot growing up in his Brookfield neighborhood and what he occasionally sees now also pains him.
“The good is just the toughness,” Lillard said. “I don’t just mean like physical toughness like you’re gone fight everybody. But, I mean like the toughness of everybody being confident. You know everybody here thinks they are the best at everything. So, you got to go up against that all the time whether it’s a scuffle, or a basketball game or baseball game, or football. Everybody has that confidence that they’re the best. Just having to be tough enough to be around that and compete with that, they say it molds you to be ready for whatever, to live or go wherever. So, that’s the one big positive.
“The negative is just the stuff you have to experience. I got a video on my phone that I took yesterday. I was driving down the street, and there was a woman, she was strung out on drugs and she just looked bad. She was out of it, walking down the street. I was driving and I just pulled my phone out, and I videotaped it. Not to make a joke of it, but because I was just so thrown off by it. It made me realize that even though you are in the league, sometimes when you get to a certain level of success, you lose track of what your reality is, you know? And where you come from.”
Spears also spoke with Lillard about the situation surrounding free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, as well as the unlikelihood of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony joining the Trail Blazers. To read more on that, check out Spears’ full article. Here’s a taste:
“I’m not giving up on anything. I just think I’ve done what I can do. And camp is a few weeks away. And you have to focus on getting ready with who we are, plan on going in as we are. Whatever changes, the front office will be the ones making that change, with the Knicks and our front office or whatever. But I get my mind focused on what I can control at a certain point.”
Lillard is right. The upcoming NBA season is nearly upon us and the Trail Blazers will soon gather in Portland to prepare. Another successful picnic signals the last, dwindling days of summer. Kids who attended return to school with brand new back packs and school supplies, courtesy of Lillard, and Lillard returns to Portland with the toughness and confidence that Brookfield breathes into products—ready for what’s to come.