Damian Lillard's first NBA All-Star Game is one he'll always remember.
The Trail Blazers guard was in just his second season in the league when he suited up for the Western Conference for his first All-Star nod in 2014.
“I was a little bit nervous, a little bit uncomfortable,” Lillard recounted before his sixth NBA All-Star appearance Sunday. “It was just different. It’s your first time. You’re sharing a room with the best players in the world. For me, it was with a lot of the players that I grew up watching.”
The experience of meeting somebody you’ve idolized or getting a glimpse of who they are behind-the-scenes can be intimidating for a newcomer. It's safe to say Lillard was absolutely starstruck when he took the court with some of the league’s best.
“I was in there with, you know Kobe walked in with his shades, Tim Duncan, Dirk [Nowitzki], all these dudes are on the team,” Lillard said. “I played in the All-Star game with Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, so it was just different. But I think my first experience, I was just taking it in...
That first All-Star Weekend was certainly a memorable one for Lillard, who became the first NBA player to compete in the Rising Stars Challenge, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest and All-Star Game. He played eight minutes and finished with nine points and one rebound in his first All-Star Game experience.
A lot has changed since then.
Lillard has become one of the league’s premier players, and a frequent selection on the Team LeBron All-Star Squad. Heading into the weekend, Lillard is averaging 29.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game for Portland.
The Trail Blazers superstar has gone from first-timer to All-Star Game veteran as he makes his sixth appearance on Sunday. After sitting out the 2020 All-Star Game due to a groin strain, Lillard is relishing in the moment and taking nothing for granted.
“Tonight, I’m gonna come out and just enjoy it,” Lillard said. “To be a part of another All-Star game is an honor, I think everybody here feels that way. Last year I didn’t get to play in the game, so tonight I’m just gonna enjoy it...