Damian Lillard is finally getting the respect he deserves in the league after several years of being overlooked by fans and analysts. His entire NBA career has been the same, but he's proving doubters wrong over and over again. Right now he's leading his Portland Trail Blazers to the postseason, where LeBron James and the Lakers are waiting for them.
Lillard has been used to changing people's minds about him, including the late Kobe Bryant, who paid respect to Lillard when he found out he was the real deal. In a recent appearance on the ‘Tea with A & Phee’ podcast, where he talked with WNBA stars A’ja Wilson And Napheesa Collier, Lillard recalled how he earned Kobe's respect during his rookie season, with Kobe noting Dame wasn't scared of anything.
If there was something that Kobe knew about, that was killer instinct, that mindset that took him to become one of the best players ever and the best player of the 2000s. So, when you get Kobe praising him for your game, you know you're doing something good.
“I never feel validated by the stuff that people said,” Lillard said. “When Kobe said that, when I was a rookie, I was hella proud. I was like, ‘Damn.’ Kobe wasn’t friendly like that.” Lillard then explained that only during the ending stages of his career, Kobe became way more “cool” in terms of working with people.
“In my rookie year, he was not friendly at all,” Lillard continued. “To hear him say that after the game, I was just like, that was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Kobe acknowledged me.’ It came from Kobe, so I know I’m not trippin’. When I look back at it now, I’m like, ‘ Damn he really showed major love when I was fresh.’”
Lillard has a similar approach to the game and he's not afraid to take that last shot, to play in big games with everything against him. He is just a killer. Recently, Raja Bell claimed he was the closest that we have to Kobe after his recent performances in Orlando, which led the Blazers to the playoffs and earned Dame the Bubble MVP award. Kobe knew what was coming; that kid was going to be something else and the Mamba knew it.