Damian Lillard is on a quest to bring a title to Rip City again.
The Trail Blazers guard has re-iterated his commitment to Portland time and time again, and the organization is equally devoted to crafting a title-contending team to make it happen.
Ahead of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Lillard was asked what it means to him to be one of the greatest Trail Blazers of all time. While reflecting on his nine years in Portland, the 30-year-old explained how important the fans have been to him and what it would mean to end the Trail Blazers’ lengthy championship drought.
“I think anytime in your life when you become so invested in something, whether that’s a person or a company or anything, you care a lot because of the time that you put into it, and how much it’s been on your heart and on your mind and part of your stress and all these things,” Lillard said. “For me, it just means a lot to be considered amongst the best players to play in this organization because there’s been so many great players here, and to win a championship because we’ve only won one and it’s been so long, that would just be the best ending for me.
There have been national media pundits and naysayers who have questioned Lillard’s crystal-clear intentions to stay in Portland. Stephen A. Smith recently suggested the NBA superstar join a team like the Knicks or move to a city where he could elevate his brand.
Lillard has continued to reject the idea because he knows the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
“I think, for every person that says you know I want to see him on the big stage, and I want to see him go to a bigger market and all these things, of course those things have pros, but nobody ever wants to think about the cons,” Lillard explained. “If you take that step and it’s not what it seems to be, and it doesn’t work out, or an injury happens, and you haven’t established as much of a rapport with that team, and they chose one guy over the next guy and now you’re traded to a third team, things can fall apart. That may never happen, but it’s just a lot of things you can’t control. You got to consider both sides. But for me, it would have to come down to my team saying look, we’re going in a different direction, and we don’t want to hold you hostage, basically, and what route do you want to go.”
Portland has been consistently shunned in the NBA world for being in a smaller market, and the “Dame should leave Portland,” narrative is getting old, but yet Lillard prioritizes his loyalty to the franchise and his teammates over selling himself to a bigger market to win a guaranteed championship.
“For every person that has that to say, I’m saying if everybody doesn’t think I can do it in Portland and we can’t win in Portland, what does it mean and what happens when we do? If we actually go and do it, then where does that put me? Where does that put my legacy? Where does that put my career?” Lillard said.
“My whole career, everybody’s been saying, ‘he should go to this team’ or ‘he should go to a bigger market,’ and all these things, so at the end of the day, if we just go and win it, then what? Where does that put me? And that’s how I see it.”
As Lillard continues to play with a proverbial chip on his shoulder and build a strong case as the league’s MVP, his eyes remain on the ultimate prize of winning it all in Portland.