There are very few players who embody loyalty and commitment than Damian Lillard. The 30-year-old star guard had spent all eight seasons of his career with the Blazers and, despite their lack of success, he has never asked for a trade or sought a way out.
Even now, he continues to lead the team through one of their greatest periods in franchise history, without grumbling, complaining, or threatening to bail to team up with other stars.
Following Lillard's most recent performance, which took the Blazers to 18-10 on the season, conversations about his place in Portland basketball history have surfaced. And, in a chat with The Athletic's Jason Quick, Lillard himself spoke on the issue, and recognized how things will likely end up by the time his career is all said and done.
As for the logistics of securing the greatest title? Lillard is under contract through the 2024-25 season, and he knows there are milestones that can assure his legacy.
Next season, Lillard should pass Drexler as the franchise leading scorer and move past him into second in assists. But ultimately he knows he will be judged by more than just stats to be unanimously considered the greatest Blazer.
“I think I just need to continue to improve, continue to win games and eventually win a championship,” Lillard said. “I think if we win a championship, it’s a wrap.
“But I don’t think if we don’t win it that I won’t be the greatest Blazer of all time. I think I will be. I think I’m nearing that already.”
In just a few seasons, Dame should take the top spot in Blazers history for points, minutes played, and field goals. He will finish in at least the top three in assists.
Most importantly, though, Lillard plays with a level of pride for his team that can only be defined as spectacular. It is not that he just tolerates being a Blazer, he relishes it, he identifies with it.
Eight years and counting, and he is playing with the same amount of energy and love for his team and for the game he had on day one, and that will be his legacy.
For a small-market team like the Blazers, that means the world. And, if for nothing else, Dame will be celebrated for it -- even if a Championship is not part of the equation.