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Championship or Charisma: Which Matters More to the Trail Blazers?

If you could conjure an NBA trophy, but your team wouldn’t be as likable, would you make that deal?

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

In the slow month of August, Portland Trail Blazers news—and NBA news in general—is hard to come by. The hustle and bustle of free agency is past, the start of the new season still three months away. It’s a bad time for updates, but a fantastic opportunity to talk theory and hypothetical questions.

We’re never shy around here, so we’re going to plunge with both feet, maybe up to our necks, into the one question that’s been resonating through Portland for the better part of a year now. It’s seldom spoken explicitly, but even the echo draws battle lines straight down the middle of Blazers fandom.

Deep we go.

Damian Lillard is not only one of the top Trail Blazers players of all time and a future NBA Hall-of-Famer, he’s an enormous boost to the morale of Blazers Nation. Everything we hear about him speaks of character, principle, and loyalty to the franchise that drafted him back in 2012. If you were to design a public image for the face of an NBA franchise, Lillard would provide a near-unbeatable template. He’s the most recognizable, charismatic, and popular player Portland has ever known, and he won’t be equaled anytime in the near future, maybe in a lifetime.

The Blazers are scrambling like mad to build a championship contender around the franchise hero. Jerami Grant, Gary Payton II, Jusuf Nurkic, and Anfernee Simons will all do their part, with more players and moves in the offing. Neither Portland nor Lillard have given up on the idea of an NBA trophy and rings.

Obviously everybody hopes the Blazers can pull it off. Pundits and analysts don’t seem so sure, at least not yet. By most objective standards, Portland’s dreams remain a longshot.

For the purposes of this question, let’s acknowledge the efforts of star and front office, but say that a championship is not in the offing under Lillard.

Let’s also look in a crystal ball and say that, if the Blazers trade Dame, two things will happen:

A. They will not be able to replace his charisma or fan-favorite status. The team will become less likable. In fact, they may become boring or somewhat unlikable.

B. Sometime in the next five years after, Portland will win a championship.

Here’s the question: would you advocate for that trade?

Again, this is a wholly hypothetical situation, parsing out what’s at the root of your fandom. It’s not a referendum on Lillard (except positively) or the team. You can have a title, but not with the player you’ve come to love. Do you accept that deal?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.