To the surprise of no one in Rip City, Damian Lillard is the undisputed icon of the Portland Trail Blazers, according to Eric Koreen of the Athletic. In establishing his rankings, Koreen excluded those on rookie contracts, those who were more heavily associated with other franchises, and only chose one player per team. He then ranked them using a mix of awards, loyalty, and such things as the player’s connection to the community. No doubt the math works in Lillard’s favor here, as he comes in second behind Golden State’s Stephen Curry.
2. Damian Lillard, Portland, 56 points
Lillard is the star whom every small-market team would want.
“To leave, what did I invest all this time for just to leave, you know?” Lillard said in 2019 in an interview with Complex. “If I go play with three other stars, I don’t think that many people would doubt that I could win it. We would win it, but what is the challenge or the fun in that?”
In the same interview, he said that he did not begrudge players who left the teams that drafted them to go to teams more likely to win the title, but that it simply wasn’t for him. Yes, it will be harder for Lillard to win a title in Portland, which is one of many teams with little to no recent history of attracting star talent in free agency. Lillard is the guy who stayed in Portland when LaMarcus Aldridge departed for San Antonio in 2015. For a franchise that had been recently rocked by the career-ending injuries of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, Lillard and the stability he represented meant a ton.
Oh, he is also the author of two of the nine series-ending buzzer-beaters in league history, one of which was followed by one of the coldest celebrations of all time.
The love Rip City has for Lillard is real, and it is returned.
You can read the full rankings here.