Damian Lillard is one of the best basketball players in the world right now, but he didn't get there overnight.
The Portland Trail Blazers star has worked hard since being the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to become one of the league's most prolific point guards and scorers. He didn't get there alone though, and had some key mentors early on in his career with the Trail Blazers that helped shape his future.
As Lillard outlined in a Twitter AMA on Thursday, there are two point guards in particular that helped him grow at the NBA level: Earl Watson and Mo Williams.
Those players may not be the biggest names, but it makes sense that they would've had an impact on Lillard while with the Blazers.
Both Watson and Williams were only with the Blazers for one season, the 2013-14 campaign. They were brought aboard as experienced backups, but they proved to be much more than that.
Watson played in just 24 games for the Blazers but went into coaching after he retired following that season. So, he and his 13 seasons of NBA experience probably helped Lillard hone his craft off the court.
Meanwhile, Williams was still a solid role player during his time in Portland. He averaged 9.7 points and 4.3 assists per game in his lone season there and helped Lillard learn more and set an example on the court. Williams also went into coaching after his career ended, so it's easy to imagine him and Watson working together to help Lillard improve.
Obviously, bringing these two players aboard as veteran players with coaching acumen and aspirations paid off. Lillard progressed into an All-Star in his second professional season with Watson and Williams on board. Since then, his rise has only continued. He is now a prominent MVP candidate thanks to his 2021 performance with the Blazers.
Lillard himself deserves a brunt of the credit for what he's accomplished, but the mentors the Blazers surrounded him with clearly helped.
And as a result, they hold a special place in Lillard's heart even seven seasons after they last played together.