No, Damian Lillard is not retiring from basketball, but for the whole Trail Blazers community, this week will looks like “Dame” is retiring from basketball.
After more than of loyal (and by loyal I mean LOYAL) services, Damian Lillard asked for his trade to the Trail Blazers board. The result of 10 years of unlimited efforts by the number 0, efforts that weren’t backed up by a poor Blazers managent. This article is a short look back at one of the greatest Blazer in History but also a thank you, from a fan.
A Blazers legend
Damian Lillard is possibly, the greatest Trail Blazers player of all time. I’m saying possibly because as I wasn’t there to witness Bill Walton, Brandon Roy, Clyde Drexler and all the greats who marked the team’s History, I can’t be fully objective. However what I know is that Dame will leave a huge and indelible mark in Portland. For Portland, the city and the fans, in the US but across the world as well (I can testify for that), he was a leader, an example, an inspiration and of course, a source of joy, highlights and moments out of time, litterally. You know, the kind of player that makes you wake up at 4 in the morning and makes you forget that you’re tired as hell (I can also testify for that). I don’t want to make an exhaustive list of every performance Lillard realized in every season with Portland. It would be boring for sure. However, I can’t write about Lillard’s journey with the Blazers without mentionning a few iconic moments such as : the first round game winner during the 2012 playoffs against Houston, the incredible performances during the bubble games in 2020, the as described by Kevin Durant “supernatural experience” during that heartbraking playoffs game against Denver two years ago, the 71 points scored this season and of course, this mindblowing game winner against OKC during the 2019 playoffffs first round.
Outside of these, clearly identifiable memories, Damian Lillard is also a leader who never gave up on his team and his city. Despite the critics, despite the dissapointing results, Lillard kept believing in his objective : winning a title with Portland. Whatever the opponent, whatever the moment, whatever the injuries, Lillard always had everything he had to give to this team so they can perform as much as possible. Yet, even superstars like Lillard are human and sometimes, the story is not a fairytail. We saw the loyal Dirk Nowitzki win a title and staying with his team until the end and wanted the same for Lillard, but it never happened. Despite his sincere and immense loyalty to Portland, Lillard is also a competitor who’s looking for the ultimate goal : a championship. Yes, to his eyes, it seems that it’s far from being as important as it is for other players, but still, he’s a competitor and he has a winning mindset.
Depsite all of his efforts, the Trail Blazers never really been able to give a team that is likely to win a championship with a coach who can also bring you to you the top. Damian Lillard has nothing to be ashamed of. As I said, his loyalty wasn’t fake at all, but like everything else, this loyalty as its limits. Lillard is loyal yes, but he’s not a fool. Clealry, Portland was not be able to give him a proper championship winning team before he starts declining, so he has to leave.
Damian Lillard’s journey in Oregon ended in a way no one wanted, but we’ll never forget the memories he gave us and the example he set for everyone else, as a leader on the court but also off the court. I’ve rarely looked up at a player like I’ve looked up at Damian Lillard, in basketball like in every other sports I’m into.
The beginning of a new era in Portland
Despite being a heartbreaking moment in the Trail Blazers History, Dame’s departure marks the start of a new era. All emotions putted aside, it’s clear that Portland missed the train since two or three years and that giving Lillard a championship winning team was already a lost fight. Obviously, it came earlier than expected but now we know that this off-season is a fresh start from the ground for the Blazers. The young players are here and they’re promising, the best example being Anfernee Simons who already proved his potential during the past two seasons, where he really exploded as future main player, as well as Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe. It will be a long process, but Portland do have the tools to build something great, they’ll just need to take better paths and be really active and dynamic when it comes to important decisions and trades.
As a journalist I’m always trying to stay objective and neutral but for once, I’ll end up on some personnal words…
Dame, you’ll stay as one of my favourite sports player of all time, and by far, my favourite basketball player. You’ve been what I would call “a true memories machine” since I’ve started following basketball but more than that, you’ve been an amazing example of so many values for a young growing adult, and for that, thank you a thousand times. May your last seasons in the NBA be full succes, you deserve a title.
To end up on a more fun note, I wasn’t lying when I said, at the beginning of this article, that for Blazers fans, it looks like he’s retiring because that last paragraph really sounded like he’s retiring and not just leaving for another team.
Photo credits: Sean Meagher / Oregonian via AP.