For years, fans and media members have tried to convince Damian Lillard to leave the Portland Trail Blazers.
After years of mediocrity, the franchise has yet to show they can build a title-contending team around Lillard, and most stars would have left long ago.
Like James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Paul George, Dame could maximize his chances to win a title if only he left town to join forces with a true superstar.
Even now, after things reached a bit of a boiling point this past summer, Lillard remains loyal to Portland, once again resisting the status quo.
And while it's a given that Damian isn't going anywhere, for the time being, Shaquille O'Neal recently made his case on why he believes the Blazers guard change his mindset:
(via The Rich Eisen Show)
“He is an old school mentality guy that’s playing in the new school. An old-school guy would say, ‘I’m not teaming up with you, I’m gonna beat you’. But these new school guys would say, hey let’s team up to make it easier. So that’s the toughest decision for him.
He wants to stay in Portland and win it out. But he may have to switch up his mentality… if everybody else is doing it, then that’s just going to keep him further from winning a championship… Should he go to a contender if he wants to brighten his chance to win a championship? I’d say he should do that. I don’t really like guys teaming up, but this is the way it is…”
So while Shaq might not like to see stars teaming up, he believes it to be the best thing for Lillard's career if he truly wants to win.
Still, O'Neal can appreciate the "loyalty" sentiment shared by Lillard and a guy like Giannis Antetokoounmpo.
“I’ve heard Giannis on many occasions, ‘I’m not going nowhere’… and I’m sure it would be a lot, if Kawhi wasn’t hurt, and James wasn’t hurt, they wouldn’t have won, maybe. But Giannis said I’m staying in Milwaukee, they just gave him that big money, and I respect him for that.”
In the end, it's hard to fault Dame for wanting to bring a Chip to his city instead of going out and chasing one somewhere else.
It's a refreshing attitude to see in the modern NBA, where superteams and trade demands have become all-too-common.
Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for loyalty. For Lillard, the path to victory is harder than ever before, and there's no guarantee it will get much easier.