In addition to being one of the NBA’s most prolific scorers, Damian Lillard is one of its most thoughtful and considered players. During a recent guest spot on JJ Redick’s Old Man and The Three podcast, Lillard opened up about how his career with the Portland Trail Blazers will be remembered.
“When my career is over, ya’ll are not about to be talking about me,” Lillard said. “Ya’ll are going to be talking about Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum — whoever when I’m done playing.” They’ll talk about me when they say ‘who had the most 40 point games or 50 point games or Portland, whatever.’ But like, why am I going to be sitting here overly concerned with everything that every person has to say about me when they don’t know my life.”
“They don’t think about me when they get off of that camera. And when I’m done playing they won’t think about me.”
While the NBA is an ultra-intense crucible of media attention and scrutiny for its active players, Damian Lillard is correct that all that pressure and focus is ultimately ephemeral; there’s so much going on in the NBA on any given day that there’s not much time to dwell on the past.
Even the best players eventually fade into the pleasantly half-remembered past; save for maybe Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryan (and, somehow, Kendrick Perkins and JJ Redick), no retired player really occupies that much space within the NBA’s general zeitgeist. In this sense, fans lose track of the fact that immediate, daily happiness is more important than a player’s “legacy,” whatever that really means.
“I go home, I play with my kids,” the Trail Blazers legend says at another point in the episode. “I go to my mom’s house, I hang out with my cousins, I talk to my grandmother on the phone… I don’t sit here and just think about, ‘I need to leave,’ all the time.”