Trail Blazers

Lillard and Kobe handed D'Angelo Russell his "Welcome to the NBA" moment

Trail Blazers

Every rookie has one - a story of the night they had their "Welcome to the NBA" moment. 

For Minnesota Timberwolves point guard D'Angelo Russell, the story starts in Rip City.

Russell was the latest guest on The Old Man and the Three podcast with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter, where he was asked what his first welcome to the NBA moment was. 

"Man, I love telling this story. I'm not gonna lie." Russell smiled, laughed, and proceeded to tell a story of a trip to Portland his rookie season. 

"We were in Portland, we're playing Dame... the start of the game I'm guarding him. They're like, 'you're gonna guard Dame, accept the challenge.' I'm like, 'cool, let's do it." Said Russell. "So we're out there and I'm just, like, in awe. This is Damian Lillard. Wow. I'm still in awe through maybe the whole first quarter. I'm in awe. This dude pulls up, deep ball, three. Comedown, foul on me, and one. Look up, deep ball, three. Another one. Another one."

Like many before him, and many after, Russell was welcomed to the NBA when the clock struck Lillard Time. 

But the story doesn't end at Lillard hitting bucket after bucket. 

Russell's rookie season with the Lakers also happened to be the final season for the late, great Kobe Byrant. 

While Lillard was going off on Russell and the Lakers, Bryant gave the young rook a moment only the Black Mamba could provide.  


"They call timeout. Kobe looks at me like, 'What? you want the m*****f**** to have 50?'

From there, Kobe proceeded to take over the defensive duties on Lillard, and as Russell puts it, Kobe shut Lillard down. However, Bryant may have had a little help from the guys in gray. 

"Kobe goes out and guards him... and just beat him up basically. They weren't letting Kobe foul out of that game," said Russell. 

Kobe, he shut it down. But I watched the refs kind of let Kobe beat the s*** out of him to do it. I was just like, 'man, that's just reputation, one. Then two, man, refs really control the game.' I hope I don't get fined for saying that.

D'Angelo Russell on Kobe Bryant and Damian Lillard

So, Kobe got away with a little extra that night. 

At the time, Lillard was entering his fourth season while Kobe was starting his 20th. 

Beating up Lillard all night, that was just a vet getting those vet call. Or, as Russell put it, "reputation."

Kobe may have got the vet treatment, but Lillard got the last laugh as Portland walked away victorious.

As for Russell, he has a story he will never forget thanks to two legends of the game. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].