That generosity extended beyond the court for Lillard Thursday night with the second-year guard from Oakland taking 30 kids from the Trail Blazers Boys & Girls Club in Northeast Portland on a holiday shopping spree.
The kids from the Boys & Girls Club traveled by bus not knowing until right before arriving that they would each be the next hour roaming the aisle of the Toys “R” Us in Jantzen Beach with Lillard, each of them having free reign to spend $100 on whatever they liked.
“This is the highlight of the week, especially because of the time of year it is,” said Lillard, whose week included hitting back-to-back game winners during the course of a 3-1 road trip. “Some people aren’t as fortunate to get Christmas presents and have a Christmas tree and have a bunch of family around them, so just the fact that I could give them something close to that with this trip, that means everything to me.”
Another quality possessed by great point guards is an ability to know what play to run in a particular situation without asking for assistance and a belief in their own judgment allows them to know almost instinctively what to do without looking to the sideline. Lillard has done that both on and off the court, coming up with the idea to host the group from the Boys & Girls Club on his own accord and using his own resources.
“This is who I am as a person.,” said Lillard. “What’s going on with the Trail Blazers, how well we’re playing, that’s great. I’m in Portland to play basketball and I’ve been enjoying that, but doing something like this is who I am as a person. I chose to do this; this was my idea. I just feel great about it what I can bring out of the kids, the smiles on their faces and how they react. Them being able to go get $100 worth of toys all for themselves, that’s what I do it for.”
But the kids didn’t just by toys for themselves. Many in the group committed their own acts of generosity by using part of their $100 by buying gifts for their brothers, sisters and cousins. Despite many of the kids not having much of their own, they thought first of what they could give to others, a reminder of the kindness, selflessness and gratitude that sometimes seems in short supply, even during the holiday season.
“When I was their age if somebody would have given me $100 to do shop, I would have spent it all on myself!” said Lillard. “I think it says a lot about some of the things they’ve been through, just the fact that they think about other people, people they’re close to. That’s big of them to have somebody hand you $100 to go shop and the first thing you do is think of the next person. For me, that says a lot about them, but it also allows me to reach out to more than just the kids here.”
That reach extends to their parents as well. While this time of year is generally considered to be a joyous time, for some, it’s a time when inequities can feel their most egregious.
“We’re just really thrilled because there’s so many kids who don’t have enough or a lot of family, people who are close to them to fall back on this Christmas,” said Erin Cunningham of the Boys & Girls Club. “So to be able to have something special that’s just for them, they’ll remember it for a long time.”
The exchanging of material possessions is certainly not required to have a happy, meaningful holiday, but for a parent dealing with hard times, there’s a pain that even the most grounded individual might not necessarily be able to shake when confronted with not having the means to fulfill your child’s wishes,
“A big part of why I feel so strongly about it is because I know how much it means to them, not only the kids, I know how much it means to their parents,” said Lillard. “The parents aren’t always in position to do what they would like to do, especially at this time of year, so just the fact that I can do it for the kids and for some of the parents that aren’t as fortunate, that might be struggling or might be going through something and can’t give their child the kind of Christmas that they want to, something like this could definitely help. I think about all those things when I decided I wanted to do something like this.”
Like a great point guard, Lillard was able to see how one action sets another in motion. Make a child happy by sharing part of what you’ve sacrificed for, save a parent from the heartbreak of seeing their child go completely without. Give a gift to one child, they turn around and use that give a gift to another child.
“What I’ve been able to do as a basketball player, it makes this stuff that much more valuable because it puts me in a position to do things for the community and for the kids,” said Lillard. “To see how they reacted, the smiles on their faces, that’s everything to me, because growing up in the neighborhood I didn’t have this type of stuff. I always knew that if I had the chance to do it that I would want to see this happen.”
And all in the process, hopefully he played a small part in inspiring the next generation, something all true greatness does.
“I think he’s such a great role model for the kids,” said Cunninghamm. “Because at the Boys & Girls Club, that’s really what we’re trying to instill all the time is giving back and being part of the community and being a good citizen. And so for them to be able to have someone that they see all the time, someone that they can look up to and see them giving back and for them to be able to be a part of that, that’s huge. It makes such a huge difference for the kids and it makes our job a lot easier in explaining why giving back is so important and how it builds community. That he’s willing to do this will speak volumes to the kids, for a long time.”
A little over a week ago, Damian Lillard, aka Dame D.O.L.L.A., held his first concert ever, a sold out affair at the Crystal Ballroom that also featured CJ McCollum and Tim Frazier dancing on stage, on his 26th birthday. By all accounts (including my own), the show went off without a hitch.
After getting his first official show under his belt, Lillard took his show on the road last weekend, performing for a packed crowd of high schoolers at the adidas LVL3 event, which was a part of the adidas Uprising AAU tournament held in Las Vegas. Media wasn’t granted access to Lillard’s Portland show, so video of that performance is scarce (though a, new “License To Lillard” episode chronicling the night is in the works), but there are a few clips of Lillard performing this weekend in Vegas, with fellow NBA players such as James Harden and Derrick Rose in attendance in case you’re curious about Dame’s stage presence…
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 24, 2016
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 23, 2016
Lillard also shared the stage with a few of the players on Team Lillard Elite, the AAU team he sponsors in conjunction with adidas, who were brave enough to test their battling skills in front of a crowd of their peers…
— #4BarFriday (@4BarFriday) July 24, 2016
In addition to the show, Lillard spoke during a panel about his signature shoe, the D Lillard 2, and participated in a number of stations adidas was running in order to keep the large number of teenage boys in attendance from the tournament from doing the kind of things teenage boys do when they get bored…
Just the beginning.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 24, 2016
Join the movement.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 23, 2016
Yesterday was a movie.
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 22, 2016
— adidas Basketball (@adidasHoops) July 21, 2016
Looks like everyone had a great time and Lillard was right in the center of the action, which is good news if you’re a Trail Blazers fan. After all, it’s never a bad thing to have young, talented players rubbing elbows and building relationships with your franchise player.
Comedian/actor/radio show host Jay Mohr was in Portland on Thursday during which he hosted a live edition of Jay Mohr Sports on Rip City Radio 620 AM. Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who is still in Las Vegas taking in Summer League, joined the show to discuss a host of NBA topics. You can listen to the entire interview below, though I’ve also transcribed a few of the more interesting answers…
“They’re going to be damn good, that’s for sure. They’ll be a little bit different, they lost three of their big guys so they’ll have to tweak their defense a little bit. One of the keys to their success the last two years was their defense and I think that got overlooked because of how well they scored the ball. They’re going to be a better offensive team, they’re going to be the favorite to win, but you never know until you toss it up.”
On signing free agent guard/forward Evan Turner…
“I’ve read some of the experts about us signing Evan and I’m surprised they don’t see the fit, because Evan is a really good basketball player. He handles the ball, he’s got a high assist ratio, he makes players better. I talked to Brad Stevens about him afterwards, they’re going to miss him in Boston. He’s a versatile defender, he’s unselfish, I think he fits into our culture. The one thing that I think gets overlooked is there was such pressure on Damian and CJ last year to be scorers and playmakers and particularly, the way I rotated the players, one of them was in the game at all times. Well Evan gives us another playmaker to take some of the load off of Damian and CJ, hopefully they’ll get better shots. You can add more playmaking — you look at the Golden State Warriors, how many playmakers they had on the court. They had two, three, four playmakers on the court at one time and that just adds to your effectiveness offensively. And defensively, Evan’s a versatile defender, he can guard two or three positions. Like I said, I think he fits in really well.”
On Damian Lillard tweeting “Hell no” when asked about returning to Oakland to play for the Warriors…
“It was pure Damian. He’s proud to be a Blazer, he loves Portland, he loves the franchise and he’s really embraced the role of being the face of the franchise. I was glad to read that.”
On the baseless speculation that the team is moving to Seattle…
“(Laughs) No. With all due respect to you Jay, and I do have immense respect, but that doesn’t really deserve a response. We’re the Portland Trail Blazers, always have been.”
It’s summer time in Portland (or at least, it’s supposed to be), which means there’s no lack of street fairs, farmers markets, beerfests and art walks to attend. Anyone who frequents such events knows how hard it can be to get from Point A to Point B when there’s thousands of people in between.
But Damian Lillard has you covered. In a new adidas short entitled “Creating Clutch,” the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State traverses a busy street market in China (wearing the “PDX Carpet” colorway of the D Lillard 2, if I’m not mistaken) using an array of moves that you can incorporate into your own crowd-surfing…
In “Creating Clutch,” Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard shows us there is no such thing as downtime if you want to be one of the best clutch players in the NBA. A crowded street market in China during his recent Summer tour became his court, the ultimate opportunity to test his creativity and put his skills to the test.