Growing up in the Brookfield neighborhood of Oakland, Damian Lillard has become used to gun violence.
The Trail Blazers guard detailed an experience in 2008 when he was waiting at a bus stop following basketball practice and was robbed at gunpoint and attacked by three men. That scary incident shook Lillard to his core, so much that one of his Dame D.O.L.L.A. songs “Roll Call” actually detailed the incident that could have transpired.
Luckily for Lillard, he escaped, going on to become a basketball star at Weber State before cementing his legacy as one of the greatest Trail Blazers of all time. But while the 30-year-old is playing the best game of his career, he’s also suffering from a year full of tragedies and unexpected losses.
Lillard detailed the recent loss when speaking with The Athletic. Over the past 18 months, the five-time NBA All-Star has found his cousin dead, lost an aunt to cancer, lost a family friend to COVID-19, lost a cousin in a West Oakland shooting and had two members of his inner circle shot and killed in Portland.
“I have to put those emotions to the side to care about the game and make sure I’m here for my teammates, and to do my job, because my job takes care of a lot of my family. It does a lot of things for people in my family,” Lillard said. “I think understanding that is what helps me kind of push forward.”
That’s a heavy burden to carry even for one of the toughest players in the game.
After the Trail Blazers 108-106 win over the Warriors on Wednesday, Lillard denounced acts of gun violence and called for change to gun control.
“I think just growing up in that type of environment, it’s way too easy to get access to guns,” Lillard said. “I think that’s where it starts. How are these people getting-- a lot of these people have guns in their possession who don’t have a reason or a right to have a gun. It’s for the wrong reasons, you know what I’m saying?
While Lillard has become desensitized to gun violence due to his upbringing on the gritty streets of Oakland, he finds it hard to believe that the epidemic of gun violence in America will ever change.
“Honestly, it’s hard for me to ever see it changing because of the amount of access people have to guns,” Lillard said. “I’m far too familiar with it. I went to high school with people that had pistols in high school in their lockers, in their backpacks on the bus, catching the bus to school. You know 12, 13-year-olds having guns, so I mean, I don’t know how you get that under control. I don’t really have the answers. I don’t really know what can be done or what should be done.”
Lillard hopes for a brighter future for his two-and-a-half-year-old son Damian Lillard Jr. and his two twins Kali and Kalii who were born in January. Gun-related violence has been happening in Oakland, Portland and America for far too long.