Portland Trail Blazers forward Damian Lillard appeared with Evan Turner on the Point Forward show this week, an episode that is creating ripples across the Portland airwaves.
Lillard and Turner were teammates with the Blazers between 2016 and 2019. The Portland point guard opened up about recruiting Turner as a free agent in 2016, becoming an NBA All-Star, his time at Weber State University, and handling the pressure of a high-profile NBA career. Turner and Lillard cover Lillard’s opening appearance that impressed Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, welcoming Jusuf Nurkic to the team, and leading the Blazers through their current era.
The most quoted portion of the interview came when Lillard described to Turner how he wanted to be remembered. He summarized it as being a player who stood tall and stood for principles in every situation.
Lillard said he bristles when people suggests that he has an agenda other than winning. He said he agrees that he might have won multiple NBA Championships in a different situation, and that he plays to win a title, but that he’s never going to let “outsiders”, including media, make him feel like a championship ring will make him feel certified, especially if the title came with a team outside of Portland.
Around the 36:00 mark, Lillard did say that if the Blazers did come to him and say they were going to rebuild, he would not beg them to keep him. He claimed he “stands on what he stands on” and that who he is on the inside—and representing the “people that he comes from”—are “way bigger than a ring”.
A minute later, Lillard said that when he’s done playing, he’s going to be proud of everything that he accomplished and the way he conducted himself. He claimed that media and fans aren’t going to care about him or his well-being beyond basketball memories anyway, so playing by his own, internal standards is the way to go.
Just past the 40:00 mark, Lillard admits that plenty of people support him, but that when you look at people in aggregate, they don’t give him credit for what he’s done and won’t, “Unless I just come out here win a championship in Portland. And they better hope that don’t happen. They better pray that I don’t win a championship for the Blazers.”
Whatever one thinks of the credit Lillard has or hasn’t gotten during his time in Portland, the interview provides interesting insight into his mindset and is well worth a listen.