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.”
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.
Playing in front of capacity crowds at arenas all across country is old hat for Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. But his next performance will be in front of a different kind of crowd, at a different type of venue and in a completely different trade.
Lillard announced today on his Twitter account that he would be holding his first full-scale concert under his nom de rap Dame D.O.L.L.A on July 15th, which happens to be his 26th birthday, at the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland. The show is the latest sign of Lillard’s evolution as an artist, which started in earnest with his Four Bar Friday project, which grew into a regular Music Monday feature, then a music video that aired on national television and now a show in front of a live audience.
The 6-3 point guard/rapper has performed in front of small crowds before, most recently during an Adidas-sponsored trip to Manila, but has never held a real show with advanced ticketing at a legitimate venue. Lillard will be joined onstage by his cousin Brookfield Deuce, who has been featured on a number of Dame D.O.L.L.A tracks, with DJ OG One handling duties on the ones and twos, as the kids say. Lillard is also giving some stage time to local pastor Duoshun Pledgegure, who raps under the name Rose Ciddy and is a frequent participant in Lillard’s Four Bar Friday series. And who knows, perhaps one or two of his teammates decide to test their rap skills under the bright lights.
Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the show and can be purchased at the Crystal Ballroom’s website. There are only 1,500 tickets available, so if you want to go, you’d be wise to purchase asap.
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently holding his annual youth basketball camp in Beaverton, and unlike some of these events put on by other players, Lillard is there actually there working with the kids every day. If you send your child to the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp, he or she is going to meet Damian Lillard.
But even though the focus is on the kids, Lillard took a few minutes to take questions from the media about the camp, his recent trip to Asia, working with Special Olympics, the upcoming free agent signing period on his involvement with recruiting and why he declined to to play for Team USA.
Regarding the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp experience…
“When I get up there and speak, I tell them ‘Make sure you thank your parents, make sure you listen to the coaches, follow their instructions, be coachable, work hard.’ Just simple things like that, a lot of basic things that could teach them a lot more than how simple it is, things like that. Just being here and having a presence is the biggest thing. The session that you guys just watched, it’s something that I’ve enjoyed because it allows me to kind of break apart the game for the kids. For them it might be a little bit boring, but it’s 10 minutes of the day where they get to listen and see what’s going on, that it’s deeper than just a pass and a shot. Some of them are probably too young to follow it as well as the older ones, but I think it’s something that you can really teach them at a young age.”
On his relationship with Special Olympics…
“When I was 17, when I first got on campus at Weber State, it was a mandatory thing, we did a one day camp with Special Olympics. The first day I kind of just went in there, I didn’t really know much about it. But then I saw that some of them, they wanted to play against us and they could actually play. They had as much passion with the game as I did, they really enjoyed our company. I’ll never forget, it was a random day like months after the Special Olympics event and there was a kid — I’ll never forget his name — Jason Depper. I was at the mall and he walked up to me at the mall like ‘Remember I made that shot on you?’ and I was just like ‘That’s funny.’ It had that type of impact on him. I’ve been involved ever since.”
On his recent trip through Asia with adidas…
“It was fun, did some pop-ups at stores. I went to some 3-on-3 tournaments, watched a lot of kids play. They’re playing so they can all make it to Beijing and it’s like a super tournament over there right now. I did some promotion for my shoes and things like that, I went back to a store that I opened up after my rookie year in Taipei, I went back to Manila. We did a huge event there, I got to get in the three-point shootout, they let me perform a couple times over there. It was kind of on the spot performances, but I had a lot of fun.”
Why he decided not to be a part of the 2016 Olympic team…
“It was simple: the last three months of the season I played with plantar fasciitis and it really bothered me. There was days the games seemed like the only time I could play, and that was adrenaline and two hours of treatment before the game. I didn’t want to go into next season dealing with it. I actually really wanted to play and I was really close to saying ‘Just forget it, I’m going to go’ but I didn’t want to go to Rio and come back a month before training camp and my foot still be bothering me, then I can’t give what I want to give to my team. That was just more important to me.”
On free agency…
“I think there’s some guys out there that can really help take our team to the next level. I really like the guys we have, too. I’m a strong believer that if guys go home and get better over the summer, we come back, we’ll be that much better. We’ll continue to get better. But my job is to make sure that I’m prepared and when I’m asked about a player that can help us, I’m going to give my honest opinion. That’s my duty to our team.”
His thoughts on Portland’s free agency plan…
“I’m excited, because it’s not hard to see… Our whole roster could look at free agency and say ‘This guy could help us, this guy could help us.’ It’s just a matter of how bad they want to be here, what we have to offer compared to what they would like. We’ll see where it goes. I have no doubt that our team is going to be ready regardless of who we bring in, who we don’t bring in. We’ll come back ready.”
Whether he’s going to help recruit free agents in person…
“Maybe. Maaaaaaybe… I might. To help our team, of course.”
Regarding what he’d tell free agents who might have “red flags” about joining Portland’s locker room…
“When I speak to these guys, I’m going to tell them what it is with our team on how we do things, what will be tolerated and what won’t. If we happen to get someone that has red flags, we don’t know for sure if that’s ‘he said, she said’ or if it’s real or if it’s the situation or people around him or what. But if it comes to our culture and our individual, it will be addressed. Nobody going to back down to nobody, let somebody come in here and think something is going to change, because it’s not. That’s not just me. I’m going to be the first one to say something because that’s just what it is. I know CJ (McCollum) is going to back that up and each guy down the line is going to back that up. We show up every day to practice to work, we show up on time, we hold each other accountable, we allow our teammates to hold us accountable and that’s the bottom line. We don’t do cute stuff, we show up and do what we’ve got to do and that’s it. If you don’t want to do it, it’s not going to work.”