Damian Lillard is playing out of this world.
The Portland Trail Blazers star is averaging 29.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game on an injury-ravaged Trail Blazers team, yet Portland is on a six-game winning streak and is the fourth-ranked team in the West in large part to Lillard’s unyielding effort.
But on Thursday as the NBA All-Star Game revealed its list of starters, Lillard’s name was nowhere to be found. They dropped the ball, again.
Here’s a look at the 10 players—two guards and three frontcourt players—from each conference who were selected by the fans, players and media panel to start in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.
West All-Star Starters: LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic.
Eastern All-Star Starters: Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.
Like last year, Lillard trailed Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic in the final Western Conference backcourt fan vote, ranking No. 3 overall. Lillard, however, did rank No. 2 in the player ranking and media rank. Since the two players were tied, the NBA decided the player with the greater fan vote was the tiebreaker. Thus, Doncic gets the starting nod.
"I still think Damian Lillard should be a starter," Shaquille O'Neal said after the vote was released.
While we know that the fan vote only makes up 50 percent of the complete vote, snubbing Lillard as starter again in 2021 is absolute insanity.
Doncic can’t seem to get the Dallas Mavericks off the ground while Lillard is literally carrying the Trail Blazers on his back. Dallas’ struggles are evident—they are 13-15 and 10th in the West. There’s no denying that Doncic is one of the NBA’s thriving stars and his stat line of 29.1 points, 9.4 assists and 8.6 rebounds proves that. This isn’t about debating the merits of Doncic’s All-Star nod.
But there are certain intangibles that can’t be measured when it comes to success and Portland has found whatever that is in Damian Lillard. This year more than ever he has presented a compelling case to be MVP and his clutch gene cannot be questioned.
Every year we watch the NBA All-Star Game select their starting five per conference, and not one of them score the ball the way Lillard does. What is it going to take for people to finally “put some respect” on his name?