Damian Lillard ends his Portland Trail Blazers career as one of the best players in franchise history. The Trail Blazers sent Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday in a three-team deal that included the Phoenix Suns. The Trail Blazers get Deandre Ayton and Jrue Holiday in the transaction, while the Suns get Jusuf Nurcic.
Lillard was a lottery pick for the Trail Blazers in 2012 and spent his entire career with the team until finally requesting a trade this offseason. In an era when few superstars were loyal, Lillard is celebrated in Portland for his loyalty to the team. He represented the Blazers through some hard times and did everything he could to bring them success in the playoffs. His greatest moments in Rip City involved putting the team on his back and winning games.
Lillard played seven All-Star games with the Blazers, was a seven-time All-NBA selection and won Rookie of the Year in 2013. Despite a lack of team success, he was a member of the NBA's 75th Anniversary team. Lillard left Portland as the franchise leader in scoring with 19,376 points, scoring an average of 25.2 points per game. Lillard had countless unforgettable moments in his 11 years in Rip City, but here are his 10 best as a Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard's 10 greatest Blazers moments, ranked
10. Lillard's first All-Star selection
Lillard made the All-Star Game for the first time in his second season. The event was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Lillard participated in five events. He took part in the Rising Stars Challenge, Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest and the All-Star Game. He was the first person in NBA history to compete in all five events at All-Star weekend.
Lillard tallied 13 points in the Rising Stars challenge and then went on to win the skills challenge, teaming up with Trey Burke. He didn't make it past the first round of the three-point contest and failed to win the slam dunk competition despite a nice 360, self alley-oop dunk. In his final event, Lillard posted nine points in his All-Star debut.
He often said winning the three-point contest was a goal, one he achieved last February in Salt Lake City.
9. First career game
Hopes were high in Portland when the Trail Blazers used their sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft on Lillard. Portland desperately needed a franchise point guard, and Lillard was its next great hope. It took one game for the hype train to fully take off, as Lillard scored 23 points and doled out 11 assists in his debut game on Halloween. It was even more special as it came against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lillard became the first point guard since Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas to record at least 20 points and 10 assists in their NBA debut. He was also the first to record at least 21 points and nine assists since LeBron James in 2003. The pressure may have been a bit too high, but his potential future place among some of the game's greatest players couldn't be ignored.
8. Back-to-back game winners in 2013
Lillard has been known as a clutch player since early in his career. The reputation was born in December 2013 when he hit game-winners in back-to-back games on a road trip.
The first came against the Detroit Pistons. The game was tied at 109 in overtime when Lillard hit a 14-foot fadeaway jumper over Rodney Stuckey with 0.1 seconds left.
The second and more iconic game-winner was against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lillard had 36 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. He was also 8-for-12 from three-point range. The performance made ripples through the locker room, as teammate Earl Watson called Lillard “a silent assassin.” The nickname has stuck with him throughout his career.
The game was tied at 116 when Lillard hit a 30-foot step-back three with 0.4 seconds left.
7. “Dame Time”
In December 2013, the “silent assassin” moniker was born, but the following year was when Lillard's most iconic nickname became public knowledge. It was December 23rd, 2014, and the Trail Blazers weren't popular enough to have the Christmas Day game, but Lillard made the holidays his moment.
Portland was playing its fourth game in five nights, and Lillard led the team to a 115-111 overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team was down by three points at the end of regulation when Lillard rose from the top of the key and hit a game-tying three-pointer. While walking back to the bench before overtime, Lillard raised his arm to the crowd and pointed to an invisible watch on his right wrist.
After the game, Lillard said, “I was just pointing to the watch. That was Lillard Time. That's the first time anybody has ever seen that. I was feeling myself a little bit at the moment.”
6. Dame passes Clyde
It wasn't a high-pressure moment or an instant-classic buzzer-beater. However, Lillard's accomplishment on December 19th, 2022, made him the best scorer in Portland history. His 21st point of the night in a loss to Oklahoma City was a free throw, giving him 18,041 career points. Hall-of-Famer Clyde Drexler is ranked second on the all-time points list with 18,040 in 12 seasons. Lillard ended his Portland career with 19,376 points, a mark that will be difficult for anyone to pass. If anyone is deserving of holding the record, it is Lillard.
It's a great debate over the greatest player in the Blazers' history. Lillard, Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton find themselves at the top of the list, but only one is the all-time leader in points.
5. One of the best playoff performances ever
Lillard's play in Game 5 of the first round of the 2021 playoffs is among the best postseason performances in league history. It came in a loss to the Denver Nuggets and preempted the Nuggets beating the Blazers taking them down in Game 6. If Portland had managed to win Game 5, it would have been up 3-2 in the series Instead, the Blazers were eliminated from the postseason by a short-handed Denver squad, jumpstarting Lillard's exit from Rip City.
Lillard finished Game 5 with 55 points and 10 assists, including a playoff-record 12 three-pointers. In no world should a team lose when their star player puts up that kind of performance, but Portland found a way. After the game, CJ McCollum said, “Dame made great plays all night for us. It’s a shame we wasted one of the best performances you’ll probably see in the playoffs …”
4. 71 points
With 12 games remaining in his Blazers career, Lillard put forth his best individual performance. The game wasn't his best moment since it came in a meaningless regular season matchup with the lowly Houston Rockets
Lillard posted a franchise record 71 points against Houston, including 13 three-pointers and 14-for-14 on free throws. A crazy stat to come out of the game was that he missed nine three-pointers, so the number conceivably could have been in the eighties if he had hit a couple more threes. The 71 points are tied for the eighth-most in a game ever, and he registered the 13th 70-point game in NBA history. Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said, “It really, really was a masterful performance. A piece of art.”
3. Dame's utterly dominant bubble performance
It is a shame that fans weren't able to witness Lillard's epic performance in the COVID-19 bubble in Orlando, Florida in person. The league played the remaining games of the regular season in the bubble to determine playoff seeding, and Lillard lifted the team to the postseason.
Portland won three games in a row to finish the season and faced a win-or-go-home matchup against the Dallas Mavericks in the finale. Lillard tallied 61 points, eight assists and five rebound while shooting 9-of-17 from three. It was Lillard’s third 60-point game of the season, and he joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only player in NBA history to have three or more in one season.
The 61-point outing wasn't Lillard's only big performance during the run, as he averaged 51.3 points, 9.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds over the last three games. At the end of the game, Lillard shouted at the media table, “Put some respect on my (expletive) name.”
2. Lillard's buzzer-beater gives Blazers first series win in 14 years
Lillard's played postseason hero for the first time in 2014 against the Houston Rockets. The Blazers hadn't won a playoff series since 2000, but they finally had some after teaming LaMarcus Aldridge with a rising star like Lillard.
The first-round series between Portland and Houston featured three overtimes in six games. The Blazers were losing by two with 0.9 seconds remaining in Game 6. Nicolas Batum inbounded to Lillard, and he hit a 25-foot three-pointer to give Portland the series win. Lillard put up 25 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals and was the first NBA player since 1997 to hit a series-winning buzzer-beater. He captured the hearts of fans by grabbing the microphone at the Moda Center scorer's table, shouting “Rip City.”
1. Waving goodbye to the Thunder
A moment that will live on forever in memes and gifs, Lillard eliminated the Thunder after a five-game series that featured plenty of taunting and trash talk.
He saved his best moment for last, dropping 50 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals while hitting 10 threes in Portland's series-clinching Game 5 win. His last three-pointer was a 37-foot, game-winning buzzer-beater that ended with Lillard waving goodbye to the Thunder's playoff lives. He was the first player in NBA history to score 50 or more points and make a game-winning buzzer-beater in the same playoff game, and his 50 points set the franchise record for postseason scoring.