Portland Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard has put together a career season. He’s broken more than one franchise record, entered into rarified air with a 71-point game, put the finishing touches on the 2023 All-Star game and is currently fighting to make the play-in tournament.
Lillard recently visited retired NBA veteran JJ Redick on his ‘Old Man and the Three’ podcast to talk all things hoops, including championship aspirations and the ease with which he’s able to score. Most striking was his grounded retort to his outlook on life aside from basketball:
“When my career is over, ya’ll are not about to be talking about me. Ya’ll are going to be talking about Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum — whoever when I’m done playing.” They’ll talk about me when they say ‘who had the most 40 point games or 50 point games or Portland, whatever.’ But like, why am I going to be sitting here overly concerned with everything that every person has to say about me when they don’t know my life,” Lillard wisely said.
“They don’t think about me when they get off of that camera. And when I’m done playing they won’t think about me.”
Lillard went on to mention how people don’t think about even NBA legend Michael Jordan on a day-to-day basis — which may be the exception to the rule — but generally he was prudent in his outlook on life after basketball.
There’s been a heavy onus on players winning championships in order to be immortalized in basketball history, especially with the rise of media culture in the 21st century. While such banter has been around since the early stages of the league, all who make up the NBA community may be placing too much investment on postseason success instead of just appreciating the game.
There’s only so many ways to say that Lillard is taking the league by storm with 32.3 points per game on the efficiency with which he’s getting his points, every time his name makes waves.
Lillard speaking about playing with his children when he gets home, forging lasting connections with his immediate and extended family members, and learning valuable lessons from his vets — Earl Watson, Jared Jeffries and Mo Williams — that translate on and off the court was what mattered most.
And Lillard is correct. He’s dedicated his career to Portland, and has earned NBA Top 75 honors well before his retirement. Whether or not he wins a championship won’t take away from the way with which he’s ushered in a three-point boom to the league behind Golden State Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, become synonymous with late-game heroics, remained loyal to a mid-market franchise and did it all with grace and humility.