A Casual Ramble About Dame’s Legacy as a Portland Trail Blazer

Hi there! This is Ben, writer/editor/manager/whatever of the Casual Ramble. I appreciate you being here. I generally try to avoid marketing myself and I don’t like paywalling content. That’s why most of this website, if not all, is free. However, I always appreciate a helping hand for my Patreon so I can keep doing it. Click the link below to support my writing. If not, enjoy it all the same!

I didn’t watch the All-Star Game, and you couldn’t pay me to watch it. The players clearly don’t care about making it a competitive game, so why should I care about watching? The only exception to this rule felt like Damian Lillard, however, who showed up big in both the All-Star Game and the 3-Point Contest.

With the weekend, he has cemented his position as one of the greatest shooters in league history. He won both the All-Star Game and the 3-Point Contest in true Dame Time fashion: with the last shot. Taps on the wrist were pervasive and he even can say he was the first pick in the All-Star draft. Antetokounmpo wasted no time calling Lillard’s name.

Clearly, his popularity in the player’s association has been solidified.

I’m not going to sit here and bluster and bloviate about his popularity or famed loyalty to Portland. I’m just going to speak to my loyalty as a fan. Generally, it is unwise to pledge loyalty to any one person, place or thing that you do not know personally.

But Lillard changes that calculus with one simple fact: he’s genuinely a good person.

Whether it’s his charitable acts, setting down his roots in Portland or spearheading the relationship between the organization and the city it represents through his play, he is the complete antithesis of Charles Barkley’s famous line: “I am not a role model.”

So you were not, Chuck. And it’s not like Lillard is going to blank-face state “I am a role model” in an Adidas commercial. In fact, he doesn’t need to say anything at all. People just keep asking the same questions. And he keeps letting his actions do most of the talking.

Don’t get any ideas, though; he’s still ready to banter with the best of them on Twitter.

Lillard’s mentality is probably something confirmed by the twilight of LaMarcus Aldridge’s career. Aldridge’s desire to play close to home was understandable, but his exit left a bitter taste. He came marginally closer to winning a championship in San Antonio than he did with Lillard in Portland. But then Zaza Pachulia took out Kawhi Leonard, and, well, so goes the breaks of the game.

What happened largely is that his career plays foil to Lillard’s. He swung and he missed, leaving a fan base that enjoyed him immensely to skip destinations in the name of winning a ring. Moreover, his exit removed the last link the Blazers had to the Roy-Aldridge-Oden era. It took me a couple seasons to move on from that, and I largely stopped watching until 2018 for the sake of my sanity.

I grew up a Brandon Roy fan. He was everything to my adolescent Blazermania, much in the same way that Scottie Pippen and Arvydas Sabonis were to my nascent mania. Had his knees not been so permanently screwed, I firmly believe that Roy would have garnered every accolade and more that Lillard is currently achieving right now. It was a grave betrayal of the spirit performed by the body.

But from his concrete slab of hard news grew a rose. Without Roy’s demise, I don’t think the Blazers trade Gerald Wallace for that 2012 first-round pick.

And that would have been a damn shame.

Damian Lillard is everything good about sports to Portland. The fire to compete, the devotion to his teammates, the satisfaction of leaving it all on the floor. If you cut him on a dribble-drive to the rim, I wouldn’t be surprised if he bled pinwheels. Winning a championship would all but solidify his ascendance as the franchise GOAT.

Sure, Drexler has the resume, and Walton has the chip, but they never quite captured the everlasting loyalty of the fanbase post-exit and retirement. Drexler has stayed in Houston since leaving, and Walton is still coming down from the acid he dropped at UCLA. Drexler is determined not to mend fences with the organization, while Walton has only done so recently. Roy could have been the GOAT, but saving the team from being sold and moved seems like a pretty good consolation.

That leaves us with one Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard Sr. He’s a league icon. Your favorite player’s favorite player. The most clutch player in the NBA today. A man who not only bounced back from injury but is playing out his damn mind.

He’s averaged nearly 40 points in February. He dropped a 71 bomb on Houston, a 61 bomb on Utah, and he’s already had multiple 50-point efforts this season. We thought we saw his peak in the 2020 season and the NBA bubble playoffs. Nope.

He presents another what-if to a franchise of what-ifs. Add it to the list: “What if Damian Lillard had gotten the surgery done earlier?” I’m not talking 2020, either, he had been dealing with that core injury since 2018. And now he’s not so now he can terrorize teams again. The Warriors had to break out a box-and-one just to stop him from tearing them a new asshole last night.

The argument for the Blazers keeping him is not so much about his loyalty to Portland, but the fanbase’s loyalty to him for a job well done, regardless of team results. At the end of the day, he plays at the pleasure of ownership and the fans. Were he a bust, there would not be a second thought.

But he’s not. He’s Damian Fucking Lillard. And his expression to see this through, come what may, can only be reciprocated by an organization and a fanbase committing to see it through, come what may.

Patrons get early access to all columns and reviews, as well as exclusive one-month early access to my short stories and poems, a private discord server and other benefits!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

About BenJamsToo

An insane man moonlighting as a respectable member of society from Portland, Oregon. A rock ‘n’ roller since his mother first spun The Police’s “Roxanne,” Ben is a lover of all things rock, soul, funk, jazz, blues, electronic and hip-hop. Perhaps it’s easier to list what he doesn’t like: most gangsta rap, country-western and modern metal disagrees with his stomach. Once upon a time, a friend told him to write about music. So he started doing that under the title of a Willie Bobo cover by Santana. Now he wonders about what Stu McKenzie has for breakfast, why John Congleton is the best damn record producer this side of the millennium and just how Common came to be his favourite hip-hop star. He’s been working on that last one for nearly a decade now. No answers yet.