In today’s NBA game, seeing a superstar player stick with one franchise through his entire career is becoming rarer and rarer — especially when that franchise is located in a smaller market.
But, if you’re looking for a player to fit this bill — Damian Lillard is your guy.
Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Lillard has stuck with his team through thick and thin. The 2020-21 season marks the six-time All Star’s ninth season with the Blazers.
To Lillard, this strength of his is also his biggest weakness — particularly in today’s game.
“My loyalty is my biggest flaw…I’m too solid for this weird a*s era,” Lillard wrote on Instagram.
“My loyalty is my biggest flaw…I’m too solid for this weird a*s era.”
– Damian Lillard on IG. ✊
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) March 31, 2021
In an era of forming super teams and demanding trades, Lillard has been a ride-or-die star for Portland from the jump. Earning an NBA Rookie of the Year award through his first season out of mid-major Weber State University, the dynamic point guard has worn his Blazers uniform like a badge of honor ever since.
Despite only making it to the Western Conference Finals once in his nine-year Portland career, Lillard has never felt the need to join up with the competition to become a title contender.
This mentality isn’t a new development. In fact, a young kid born and raised in Oakland, California though the same way. As a teenager growing up on the AAU circuit, Lillard was heavily recruited to join the big-name teams — but he stuck with his guys until the end.
“That wasn’t my program, you know what I’m saying? I probably missed out on a bigger stage, but that’s not what it was about for me,” Lillard wrote in a story for The Players’ Tribune. “For me, it’s loyalty over everything. Those times with my brothers on the Rebels? Man, you can never take that away from me.”
For years, that quotation has perfectly summed up his MO.
There’s always going to be a bigger stage, but Lillard is going to make the most of the stage he’s given.