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Damian Lillard Explains the Origin of “Dame Time”

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The Blazer guard opens up to Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins about the origin of the popular phrase, and how it has evolved.

Thanks to Damian Lillard, fans of the Portland Trail Blazers, as well as the NBA in general, have a new entry in their cool phrase lexicon: “Dame Time”. The two words evoke stirring fourth-quarter comebacks and brilliant buzzer-beating conversions. But the phenomenon didn’t start under the bright lights, rather when guard Damian Lillard was a high schooler in Oakland, California. Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins recently recounted the story of the birth of the phrase:

Only 16, Lillard already moved at the measured pace of a pro, cool and nonchalant. “Can you even take over a game?” Young asked. “Do you even know how to do that? The time is here. Can you get it done?”

Lillard’s teammates, eavesdropping on the bench, do not remember his response. But they detected the slightest change in his manner, the way he shimmied his shoulders up and down, revving an internal engine they didn’t realize he had. “That,” recalls former Rebel P.J. Taylor, “was the beginning of Dame Time.” Most of what followed is predictable, a flurry of driving lay-ins and pull-up jumpers, confounding the defense and melting the deficit. I’m actually doing this, Lillard thought. I’m taking over the game. Down by three points in the final minute, the Rebels fed Lillard in the corner. His bloodless three tied the score with one second left. Overcome, he stripped off his white jersey, detached no more.

Though Lillard’s AAU team eventually lost (on a free throw from a technical foul from Lillard), he showed that he was capable of putting a team on his back and taking over a game, something Blazers fans have been treated to for years.

His ability to metamorphose his game has also expanded—as Jenkins states,

But the new version of Dame Time—or Lillard Time, whatever your preference—has not been a five- or 10- or 15-minute phenomenon. It’s spanned nearly two months.

He is now able to take advantage of the clutch play to make his teammates better as well, Jenkins explains,

The Blazers won 13 games in a row from Valentine’s Day through March 18, with Lillard netting 40 points against the Suns and 39 against the Lakers, 19 in the fourth both times. “But we had three games where Chief has been the one making the big shot,” Lillard recounts. “Up by two, 58 seconds left, two people come, Chief open, I’m making that pass. That’s the way it should be.” At Dame Time he hears opposing coaches scream, “Get up! Get up!” and feels defenders cheat his way. He is trying to leverage the fear and the chaos his stroke inspires.

Lillard’s 2017-18 season will go down as one of the single greatest individual campaigns in Blazers history. He is playing at an MVP-caliber level, whether he is in serious contention for the award or not. More importantly, the Blazers should be a force to be reckoned with in this year’s playoffs, because lately, Dame Time is all the time.

You can read Jenkins’ piece in it’s entirety here.