The Blazers opened up preseason play last week by traveling back in time and playing a game inside the "Glass Palace," aka Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Among the sea of black and red jerseys, disco outfits, and stylish suits straight from the 1970s, one custom jersey stood out like a sore thumb: A custom Damian Lillard jersey.
Obviously, it wasn't the name on the jersey that had fans doing a double-take. Rather, it was the jersey the name was on. No, it wasn't a Blazers jersey. No, it wasn't a Weber State jersey. It wasn't even an Oakland High School jersey... Lillard's name was seen on the back of a Golden State Warriors jersey.
But this wasn't just some Hamptons Five fan pulling the ultimate troll. It was a fan that wanted to show his pride for everything Lillard means to the East Bay.
The man behind the jersey is Segun De Silva. I had a chance to catch up with him before the game simply to ask why he wore the jersey. His answer came from the heart.
De Silva proceeded to tell a story about how he loved Damian Lillard, but refused to wear a Trail Blazers jersey. He has his reasons, but he still wanted to find a way to show his love for Lillard.
De Silva, an Oakland native, went to his roots. He picked a Golden State jersey not because he bleeds blue and gold, but because it represented his home town. How? Well, he didn't go with a jersey that said Warriors across the chest. He instead picked the alternate "The Town" jersey. A jersey made to represent more than the Warriors on the court, but the entire city of Oakland.
Not only did it speak to Oakland, but it matched Lillard in a special way.
For those who don't know, "The Town" jersey features the Jack London Oak on the chest. The oak tree is an everlasting symbol of the city and also happens to be tattooed across Lillard's chest
De Silva got Lillard's name on a Warriors jersey, but a jersey that had Oakland's nickname and Lillard's tattoo on it. For De Silva, it had nothing to do with basketball.
Lillard is a hero in Oakland. As De Silva told me, "If he can leave Oakland and embrace a city like Portland, then I can too." Lillard, and fellow Oakland legends like Marshawn Lynch, are beacons of hope that show so many people what can happen when you dream big and put your mind to it.
I asked Lillard what he thought about a fan wearing a custom Lillard/Warriors jersey to a Blazers game. He laughed at first. Then I told him De Silva's explanation and this is what he had to say:
That means a lot because I always tell people growing up in Oakland how much pride we had in successful people from our city. I'd go to school and everybody would swear up and down that Gary Payton was they uncle, or they was related to Jason Kidd, they was related to Antonio Davis.
They just wanted some type of attachment because that's the kind of pride that people have from Oakland. That shows exactly that. Just that sense of pride and him being proud of not only my success as a basketball player, but who I am as a man. He seems like he has a lot of respect for that.
It sounds like just an Oakland thing.
I tell this story simply to say, don't be so quick to judge. What looked like a troll, was a man with a story. A story we can all appreciate and understand. And if you don't get it, there is a reason why... It's an Oakland thing.