Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard wants fans to understand his success on the basketball court does not negate the pain he has endured in his life.
The Blazers star gave a raw and real interview to Jason Quick of The Athletic in which he revealed he has, at times, struggled to balance his emotions and focus in light of recent tragedies.
The Oakland native lost his cousin and personal chef in 2020, as well as an aunt and family friend who died from COVID-19. Lillard has lost two more cousins to violence in 2021, in addition to a close family friend.
The Blazers guard wants fans to understand players are human beings, too. They have emotional struggles and endure pain just like everyone else:
“I’ll say this — it’s been bittersweet for me the last year and a half,” Lillard said. “A lot of people don’t know, because I don’t seek sympathy, I don’t make excuses. I just show up. It’s like, you get on Twitter and people have so much to say. And when I post on Instagram, people have soooo much to say. ‘You didn’t do this’ … ‘Your team is never going to win a championship’ … you know, everybody just got so much negative shit to say. And I’m just looking at it like, I’m coming out here to practice every day, I show up for my team every damn game. I don’t make excuses. I just do stuff the right way. And I perform. I show up. If shit goes bad, I don’t shy away from it. I say, ‘My bad. I wasn’t good enough.’ When shit goes well, I don’t say it was all me. And that’s not just me trying to do the right thing. I say how I feel about stuff and how I see these situations.
“I think there’s a lot of people who don’t take into consideration that we have lives, too,” Lillard said.
It would be easy for outsiders to see Lillard now and think his life is perfect playing for Portland.
The 30-year-old is in the conversation as the best point guard in the NBA. Lillard has endorsement deals with Hulu and Gatorade’s BOLT24 line of energy drinks. He’s also one of the best rappers among NBA players.
But as he told Quick, Lillard is also a man who remembers his roots. He had to grind through adversity to experience success, and still experiences adversity to go with the triumphs.
Lillard acknowledges basketball as a blessing. But the Blazers star wants fans to understand his craft does not make him invincible.