In the modern NBA, how a superstar wins a championship is often understated as time goes on. Rings tend to simplify the narrative. LeBron James and Kevin Durant still endure their share of super team criticism, but their place among the elites is unquestioned. That is the power of the ring. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard wants to take the road less traveled, though.

It is a road that entails grit, plenty of patience and unwavering loyalty to the franchise that drafted you. Lillard knows how satisfying and special it would be to win a championship in Portland, the place he has called home for the entirety of an 11-year career. He draws motivation and hope from two stars who have completed that arduous journey. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Dirk Nowitzki.

Giannis saw things through with the Milwaukee Bucks and was rewarded with a ring and NBA Finals MVP award in 2021. His triumph is fuel for Lillard, who knows all too well the pressure that comes with being tapped as the savior of a smaller franchise.

“Giannis, people said he needed to leave Milwaukee, they've been struggling in the playoffs, they've been losing in the first round — all these different stuff,” Lillard told ESPN's Baxter Holmes. “I'm sure that championship is very, very fulfilling. I'm sure it freed him. He's playing with a different type of peace and comfort.”

Nowitzki shocked the NBA world when he led his Dallas Mavericks to the promised land against the Big Three Miami Heat team in 2011. He retired and was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a lifetime Mav. The closest Lillard has come so far was a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2018-19. The Blazers were swept by the Warriors. Nowitzki's successful toppling of a different super team proves that David beating Goliath is no myth.

“I remember Dirk killing it when Steve Nash was on his team,” Lillard said. “Killing it. When they had the old Dallas Mavericks uniforms and his hair was cut short — all the way to the year he won MVP [2007] and they were No. 1 in the West. Then they lose to the Warriors.”

Regardless of if he eventually takes Portland all the way, Damian Lillard's resolve can only be admired and appreciated. Especially in this era.